Guidance

Environmental Stewardship

How to apply for the government scheme offering financial rewards for good stewardship and management of the land to improve the quality of the environment.

Introduction

Environmental Stewardship (ES) is a government scheme that offers financial rewards for good stewardship and management of the land to improve the quality of the environment.

ES is delivered by Natural England on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as part of the Rural Development Programme for England and is available to farmers and land managers in England.

This guide explains how ES operates, and how to apply for agreements.

Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), Organic ELS and Uplands ELS closed for new 2013 applications on 1 September 2013. The scheme will only be open for specific applications in 2014. Please see Transition to the next Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020 on the Natural England website for more details.

What is Environmental Stewardship?

ES provides funding to farmers and other land managers who deliver effective environmental management on their land.

The primary objectives of ES are to:

  • conserve wildlife (biodiversity)
  • maintain and enhance the landscape
  • protect the historic environment
  • promote public access and understanding of the countryside
  • protect natural resources
  • prevent soil erosion and water pollution
  • support environmental management of uplands areas

The secondary objectives of ES are genetic conservation - including traditional breeds of cattle and varieties of fruit trees - and flood management.

ES also has a general aim of helping the natural environment to adapt to climate change by, for example, reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as providing and protecting carbon storage.

Funding of ES

ES is funded through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). To find out more about the RDPE see Funding and Support on the DEFRA RDPE Network website.

Different elements of Environmental Stewardship

There are three elements to ES:

Entry Level Stewardship (ELS and Uplands ELS)

ELS, including the new uplands strand of ELS, provides a straightforward approach to supporting the good stewardship of the countryside. This is done through simple and effective land management that goes beyond the Single Payment Scheme requirement to maintain land in good agricultural and environmental condition. It is open to all farmers and landowners.

Find out about ELS on the Natural England website, or in the guide on Entry Level Stewardship (ELS).

Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS and Uplands OELS)

OELS and Uplands ELS are the organic strands of ELS and Uplands ELS. They are aimed at farms that have a land-based organic farming enterprise and are open to all farmers registered with an organic control body, except those that are in an existing organic aid scheme.

Find out about OELS on the Natural England website or in the guide on Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS).

Higher Level Stewardship (HLS)

HLS involves more complex types of management, where land managers need advice and support, and agreements are tailored to local circumstances. HLS applications will be assessed against specific local targets and agreements will be offered where they meet these targets and represent good value for money.

View maps highlighting areas targeted for effective environmental management on the Natural England website.

Find out about HLS on the Natural England website, or in the guide on Higher Level Stewardship (HLS).

Environmental Stewardship applications

You can apply for ES through your regional Natural England office.

Any land that you enter into ES must first be registered with the Rural Land Register - a digital record of all farmed land in England - and must be part of the farmed environment. You can register land by contacting the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

ES applicants also need an RPA vendor number and a County Parish Holding number. If you have claimed payments under other programmes, such as the Single Payment Scheme (SPS), then you should already have these. If not, you can get them from the RPA.

Cross compliance

The cross compliance requirements of the SPS also apply to ES agreements, whether or not you are also claiming the SPS.

Find out more in the guide on Cross Compliance.

Therefore, when joining ES, you will be agreeing to:

  • maintain your land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) by meeting a range of standards that relate to the protection of soils, habitats and landscape features
  • meet a range of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) covering the environment, public and plant health, animal health and welfare, and livestock identification and tracing

For more details see the guides on Standards of GAEC and SMR.

Other ES forms

There are a number of additional forms that applicants and agreement holders may need to use to apply for ES and during the lifetime of their agreement.

You can find a full list of forms on the Natural England website.

Countryside Stewardship Scheme

The Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) has now closed to new agreements and has been replaced by ES. Some existing agreements will, however, continue until 2014.

CSS was the government’s main scheme for the wider countryside, aiming to improve the natural beauty and diversity of the countryside, enhance, restore and re-create targeted landscapes, their wildlife habitats and historical features, and to improve opportunities for public access.

CSS transition to ES

If you already have a CSS agreement covering some of your land, as a general rule you cannot apply for ES on the same land. You may, however, be able to apply for Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), Uplands ELS or OELS on the land that is not receiving funding under the CSS agreement.

The ELS handbook contains guidance on applying for ES on farms with existing CSS agreements. You can access the ELS handbook on the Natural England website.

If an existing agreement is coming to an end, Natural England can provide advice to help a smooth transition into ES. There are limited opportunities for early transfer into ES from an existing scheme, mainly where Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) can secure better management for environmental priorities.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas scheme

The Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) scheme has now been closed to new agreements and has been replaced by ES. Some existing agreements will, however, continue until 2014.

The ESA scheme aimed to improve the environmental value of farmland in 22 defined areas of England by enhancing the conservation, landscape and historical value of key environmental features and, where possible, to improve public access to these areas.

ESA transition to ES

If you already have an ESA agreement covering some of your land, as a general rule you cannot apply for an ES agreement on the same land. You may be able to apply for Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), Uplands ELS or OELS on land that is not receiving funding under the ESA agreement.

See guidance on applying for the ELS scheme for farms with existing ESA agreements from the Natural England website.

If an existing agreement is coming to an end, Natural England can provide advice to ensure a smooth transition into ES. There are limited opportunities for early transfer into ES from an existing scheme, mainly where Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) can secure better management for environmental priorities.

Uplands Entry Level Stewardship, Hill Farm Allowance and Uplands transitional payment

The final Hill Farm Allowance (HFA) payments will be made in Spring 2010, After this, uplands farmers will receive support through the Uplands Entry Level Stewardship (Uplands ELS) scheme.

Uplands ELS

Uplands ELS has replaced the compensatory HFA payments with a scheme that rewards farmers for maintaining and improving the upland landscape and environment in England’s Severely Disadvantaged Areas (SDAs).

To be part of the Uplands ELS scheme you will need to use simple and effective environmental management to maintain and improve the biodiversity, natural resources, landscape and historical value of the uplands and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Uplands transitional payments

If your land is under a CSS or Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) agreement, you are not eligible for Uplands ELS. But from 2011, you will be eligible for the Uplands Transitional Payment (UTP), provided you received HFA payments in 2010. For information on how to apply for UTP, see the guide on Uplands Entry Level Stewardship (Uplands ELS).

Further information

Natural England Enquiry Service

0845 600 3078

RPA Helpline

0845 603 7777

Natural England Uplands ELS Enquiries

0300 060 1117

Cross Compliance Helpline

0845 345 1302

Defra Helpline

08459 33 55 77

RDPE funding streams on the RDPE Network website

ELS on the Natural England website

Uplands ELS on the Natural England website

OELS on the Natural England website

HLS on the Natural England website

Handbook for ELS on the Natural England website

Handbook for OELS on the Natural England website

Handbook for HLS on the Natural England website

Cross Compliance on the Defra website

Explanatory booklet on the Uplands Transitional Payment on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) website

FAQs on how to claim Uplands Transitional Payments on the RPA website

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