Who can apply and what land is eligible
You must read and meet the requirements detailed in this section as these are mandatory for all Countryside Stewardship Woodland Management Plan (WMP) agreement holders.
3. Who can apply and what land is eligible
The CS WMP grant is open to land managers who are either:
- an owner occupier
- a tenant
- a landlord
- a licensor.
3.1 Eligible land
3.1.1 What land you can enter into the scheme
To be eligible for the scheme:
- The land must be woodland. Woodland is defined as an area of land that:
- is at least 0.5 hectares
- has a minimum width of 20 metres
- is under stands of trees with, or with the potential to achieve, a height of 5 metres
- has crown cover of more than 20% of the ground.
- The woodland must be in total larger than 3 hectares, within a minimum woodland block size of 0.5 hectares.
- All woodland on your holding must be included in the WMP (see section 4.3).
- The area of eligible internal open space shall be limited to 20% of the total woodland area (in limited and exceptional cases this may be increased to 30%). Open space may include forest tracks, rides, wayleaves and other permanent open areas but should be managed as part of the woodland environment.
You cannot claim payment for WMP (capital item PA3) on land which is used to claim Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), but you can include it in the WMP.
For example, you can include an area of short rotation coppice that is used to claim for BPS in your WMP, but cannot include the area in your WMP grant payment claim.
However, under the allowance for including up to 20% newly planted woodland in the WMP agreement, we will accept any land that you are using to claim for BPS and that is also:
- within the durability period under Countryside Stewardship Woodland Creation (5 years following the agreement end date), or
- that is currently in a Woodland Creation Maintenance grant agreement (10 years), or
- that is currently under an English Woodland Grant Scheme - Farm Woodland Payment (FWP) or Farm Woodland Premium Scheme (FWPS) agreement.
3.1.2 Ineligible land
The following land is not eligible for the scheme:
- land that does not meet the definition of a woodland, as set out in 3.1.1
- developed land and hard standing (including permanent caravan sites and areas used for permanent storage)
- land that is already part of another obligation which is incompatible with Countryside Stewardship, for example woodland that is already under an obligation to have a written management plan, for example due to a planning consent
- any land parcels which are not entirely within England. Parcels that are either partly or entirely within Scotland or Wales are not eligible for Countryside Stewardship
- land where you do not have management control for the period of the agreement and you are not able to have an application countersigned by the landowner (see section 3.2).
3.2 Management control: eligibility and scheme rules
You must have control of the land and all activities needed to meet the requirements of the capital items selected for the full period of the agreement (2 years).
If you do not, you must get the written consent of all other parties who have management control of the land and activities for the entire period of the capital agreement.
If you are a tenant applying for an agreement in your own name, you must have:
- control of all the activities needed to meet the scheme requirements for the chosen Countryside Stewardship multi-year and capital items
- management control of all the agreement land for the duration of any commitments (which may extend beyond the agreement period)
- security of tenure for the full period of the agreement.
If this is not possible, you must get your landlord to countersign your application. If you are not able to do this, you cannot include that particular area of land in your application.
You must have the agreement of your landlord or the landowner before you apply. If you are a tenant, including under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 (a Farm Business Tenancy) or equivalent, it is your responsibility to check that you do not breach the terms of your tenancy by joining Countryside Stewardship.
If the landlord takes over a Countryside Stewardship agreement from you once your tenancy has ended, they must be eligible to do so. For example, they must not be an ineligible public body.
If you are a landlord and can show that you keep management control over the land and activities, you can apply for an agreement on land you have let to a tenant.
Dual use is where the applicant for this grant is different to the applicant for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) on the same land. Dual use for this grant is possible in limited circumstances. You can claim for PA3 on land that is subject to BPS, that is, areas of young woodland which are still being used to claim BPS and which are within the 20% allowance. The applicant must still show they have management control over the land.
For more information see Operations Note 42.
As the agreement holder, you must give your tenant a copy of the Countryside Stewardship agreement. We may ask you to provide evidence to show that you have done this. It is your responsibility to make sure that your tenant does not breach the terms of the agreement.
If you are in a business partnership, you can apply for Countryside Stewardship. All partners in the farm business, or their agents, must sign the application form. One person can act as the representative. The person signing the application must have the appropriate permission levels in the Rural Payments service.
If you are a licensor, you can apply for a Countryside Stewardship agreement. It is your responsibility to make sure that the licensee does not breach the terms of the Countryside Stewardship agreement.
You must make sure that the licensee is aware of the requirements of the agreement, as relevant to the licence, and include these in the licence agreement.
Licensees cannot usually apply for a Countryside Stewardship agreement as they are unlikely to have sufficient management control of the land. However, if you are a licensee, you may be eligible to apply if, in practice, your agreement with the landowner gives you wider land management responsibilities.
3.2.6 Land owned by public bodies
Land owned or run by a public body is in general not eligible for Countryside Stewardship. If you are a tenant of a public body, you will need to check with your landlord if the land is eligible for Countryside Stewardship.
Countryside Stewardship cannot pay for any environmental management that is already required through:
- payment from Exchequer funds
- grant aid from any other public body
- any other form of legally binding obligation including tenancies.
This means that Crown bodies and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are not eligible for the scheme. This includes those that are Trading Funds or those that do not receive funding direct from the Exchequer. Crown bodies include all government departments and their executive agencies, for example:
- Ministry of Defence
- Forestry Commission
- Royal Parks.
NDPBs are public bodies that have a role in the processes of national government but are not a government department, and are not part of one. These include:
- Environment Agency
- Natural England
- Historic England
- National Forest Company.
Parish councils and former college farms are not considered to be public bodies and so are eligible to apply for Countryside Stewardship.
The following table provides more detailed eligibility requirements for public bodies:
|Government departments, executive agencies and NDPBs (for example, Ministry of Defence, Forestry Commission)||Ineligible|
|Other public bodies (for example, local authorities, National Park authorities and public corporations)||Eligible||Provided the work does not form part of their obligations as a public body|
|Parish Councils and former college farms||Eligible|
|Tenants of eligible public bodies||Eligible||Ineligible where the work is already a requirement of the tenancy agreement. The public body must countersign the application if the tenant does not have security of tenure|
|Tenants of ineligible public bodies||Eligible||Ineligible where the work is already a requirement of the tenancy agreement. Tenants must have security of tenure for the full term of the agreement, including the durability requirement, as the public body cannot countersign the application|
3.3 Land receiving other funding
You cannot combine the WMP grant with other sources of public funding to provide the same plan on the same land. You cannot use the grant to produce a WMP which you are required to carry out under other agreements, for example work which is already a requirement of a tenancy agreement or other grant schemes such as:
- Environmental Stewardship
- Other grants within Countryside Stewardship
- Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme
- English Woodland Grant Scheme
- Farming Recovery Fund
- Heritage Lottery Fund
- Inheritance Tax Exemption.
You must make sure that any work proposed for this grant does not breach the conditions of any other agreement. We will carry out checks to make sure that capital works are not funded twice from public money.
3.4 Business Viability Test
We will check all applications against an insolvency register. If we assess your application as not financially viable, we may not offer you an agreement. Applications involving capital expenditure over certain limits will require additional evidence and undergo additional checks. Read 4.4.4 for more information.