GS7: Restoration towards species-rich grassland

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the restoration towards species-rich grassland option.

How much will be paid

£145 per hectare (ha).

How long the option lasts

This option lasts for 10 years, instead of the standard 5 years for the grant scheme.

Where to use this option

Available for Higher Tier

Whole or part-parcel

Only on parcels of grassland that have high or medium potential for being restored to grassland priority habitat.

Features that can be included in this option

The following features can be included in this option if they are part of the land, even if they are ineligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS):

  • ditches, dykes, drains, rivers or streams that are less than 4m wide for the majority of their length in the parcel
  • temporary water
  • permanent water less than or equal to 0.1ha, at the discretion of Natural England)
  • natural unsurfaced roads, tracks, paths and bridleways (as long as the applicant is still able to carry out the requirements of the option)
  • bracken
  • scree, rock outcrops and boulders up to 0.1ha
  • grazed woodland and scrub that has grass underneath it and that livestock can access, at the discretion of Natural England
  • small areas of other habitat types, such as reedbeds, at the discretion of Natural England

How this option will benefit the environment

It will restore grasslands that have the potential to become priority grasslands. It will increase the number and frequency of important plant species. Many other priority species, such as bumblebees, butterflies, birds or bats, will also benefit. Buried archaeological features will not be disturbed.

Requirements

Agreement holders are likely to need to:

  • increase the presence and abundance of high value plant species, for example by deliberately introducing new species
  • maintain a range of plant heights suitable for invertebrates, birds or other priority species
  • manage the grassland by grazing, hay cutting, or a mixture of both
  • maintain a continuous cover, particularly over historic features
  • use very little or no manure, fertiliser, pesticide or supplementary feed
  • maintain scrub, rushes and other potentially dominating plants at the levels set out in the agreement
  • control undesirable plants (these can be specified in the agreement)

A detailed timetable will need to be agreed setting out how the grassland will be restored and the timetable to achieve it. This should include details of how seeds or plants will be introduced, identifying the source of the material and the varieties and quantities to be used. It should also set out how the grassland will be managed after the plants or seeds are introduced.

The agreement will set out what must not be done. It is likely agreement holder will not be allowed to:

  • plough, cultivate or re-seed, unless agreed with Natural England
  • harrow, roll or allow scrub or bracken to encroach on historic or archaeological features
  • carry out activities that may disturb breeding birds or damage nests

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • receipted invoices, consents or permissions connected with the work
  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • a standard soil analysis, to be completed in the final agreement year and results submitted with final claim
  • soil analysis results
  • inputs used
  • any sites grazed will require a grazing activity record

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the management undertaken

Applicants are likely to have to send the following with their application:

  • a standard soil analysis, including analysis of organic matter by loss on ignition, with their application
  • a map of the existing drainage system
  • photographs showing the extent of scrub or bracken on any historic or archaeological features must be taken
  • photographs showing any areas where sward enhancement will be carried out

The detailed requirements for this option will be tailored to the Higher Tier site. Applicants should discuss and agree these requirements with their adviser.

The following options and supplements can be located on the same area as this option:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following section gives advice on carrying out this option successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this option.

How to choose a site

This option works best on infertile soils where the soil phosphorus index (as shown by soil analysis) is low and where the sward is not dominated by aggressive plant species or injurious weeds. It is best used where it will extend an existing area of priority habitat.

How to manage the site

The management for this option will be tailored to the site, but in most cases the following will be needed:

  • appropriate livestock (which will often be cattle), over which the agreement holder has full control
  • machinery to allow management requirements such as hay cutting to be carried out
  • consideration of how best to manage associated features such as ditches and scrub
  • capital works to support this option (e.g. to increase the number of plant species, use option FM2 - Major preparatory work for priority habitats and priority species)
  • change of hay cutting and grazing patterns, at least in the short term

Upland calcareous and other very extensively managed grassland, especially in large parcels, may not be accepted for this option. Such grassland may be eligible for other options, such as GS13 - Management of grassland for target features.

Once the grassland is restored to priority habitat, it may be eligible for option GS6 - Management of species-rich grassland.

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