Higher Tier manual: Countryside Stewardship

Manual for all Higher Tier agreements starting on 1 January 2021



Applications for Higher Tier opened on 11 February and close for initial applications on 1 May 2020. Use the manual to understand:

  • the payments you could receive and how this scheme benefits the environment
  • eligibility requirements
  • the rules and conditions

Use Countryside Stewardship grants:

  • to understand the rules for the options, supplements and capital items
  • for advice on how to carry them out.

Use the conversion guidance if:

  • you’re in the final year of an Environmental Stewardship (ES) agreement and want to put the land into a Higher Tier agreement
  • there’s a risk of environmental decline to a site caused by loss of management between the end of your ES agreement and the start of a Higher Tier agreement.

The manual has portrait and landscape pages. Before printing, select ‘auto rotate’ in your printer settings.

Overlap of Countryside Stewardship (CS) options with Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) in 2020

You can no longer overlap the following CS options with EFAs declared on your Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) 2020 application:

This is to avoid funding the same activity on the same land parcel under both CS and BPS, known as ‘double funding’. You can continue to place CS options and EFAs in the same land parcel but they cannot overlap.

In 2020, your Ecological Focus Area (EFA) cover crops must be established by 1 October 2020 and retained until at least 15 January 2021. The Rural Payments Agency will not consider the retention of the EFA cover crops as an overlap with 1 January 2021 CS agreements. This assumes you’ll move the cover crops to a different location in 2021.

Hedges can be used for EFA and for Entry Level Stewardship, Higher Level Stewardship and CS options without payment deductions.

Find out more about CS funding


Rural Payments Agency

(Countryside Stewardship)
PO Box 324
S95 1DF

Opening times: 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays)

Find out about call charges at

Published 14 March 2016
Last updated 23 April 2020 + show all updates
  1. V3 of Higher Tier manual added with change to wording on Pg 142, Annex 5, Section d) from • improving water quality in acid sensitive water catchments to improve resilience to climate change through continuous cover forestry

  2. Higher Tier overview leaflet added to the page.

  3. Publication of the Higher Tier manual for agreements starting on 1 January 2021, and How to request a Higher Tier application pack online.

  4. Information updated following application deadline.

  5. Update text to advise that the closing date for requesting an application pack was 31 March 2019.

  6. Higher Tier application form published

  7. Higher Tier applications for 2020 agreements opened on 18 February

  8. Options, supplements and capital items PDF updated to show option SW12 cannot be used on land already receiving funding for Ecological Focus Areas declared for Basic Payment Scheme.

  9. Section on 'Overlap of certain CS options with Ecological Focus Areas in 2019' added.

  10. Scheme now closed for applications.

  11. Higher Tier manual amended. The 6 changes are listed in revisions table on page 2.

  12. Deadline to request an application pack has passed. Removed form for requesting a pack.

  13. Application pack request form added.

  14. Higher Tier manual 2018 published with links to Offers for Wildlife.

  15. Quick guide to application process added.

  16. New versions of manual, options document and conversion guidance for 2017 application round.

  17. Added manual addendum about 'dual use' with the Basic Payment Scheme.

  18. Replaced Higher Tier options, supplements and items document. Minor change to text.

  19. Replaced the initial version of the Higher Tier options, supplements and capital items PDF with revised version.

  20. Added document for Higher Tier options, supplements and capital items.

  21. First published.