Woodland Tree Health grant manual: Countryside Stewardship (From August 2019)

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 Woodland Tree Health grant agreement holders.

3 Who can apply and what land is eligible

The Woodland Tree Health 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 can be entered into the scheme

Land must meet the definition of woodland. Woodland is defined as an area of land that:

  • is at least 0.5 hectares
  • has an average width of at least 20 metres
  • is under groups/lines of trees that are, or will reach, at least 5 metres in height and with a crown cover of more than 20% of the ground area.

There is no area threshold for the woodland tree health improvement part of this grant – although the works under the agreement must be worth at least £500.

There is a minimum agreement size of 0.25 hectares and a minimum woodland block size of 0.1 hectares for applications for the woodland tree health restoration grant.

3.1.2 Ineligible land

The following land is not eligible for the scheme:

  • land subject to some Rural Development schemes
  • land subject to another obligation that is not compatible with Countryside Stewardship
  • land not entirely within England.

3.2 Management Control

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 agreement.

3.2.1 Tenants

If you are a tenant applying for an agreement in your name, you must have:

  • control of all required activities needed to meet the scheme requirements for the chosen Countryside Stewardship 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. 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.

3.2.2 Landlords

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 that 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, for example when you are replacing young trees on land under a woodland maintenance or farm woodland agreement and which is also eligible for BPS.

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.

3.2.3 Partnerships

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 (see section 4.3 for more information).

3.2.4 Licensors

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.

3.2.5 Licensees

If you are a licensee, you may be eligible in certain circumstances if you can demonstrate full management control of the land for the period of the agreement.

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 do not receive funding direct from the Exchequer. Crown bodies include all government departments and their executive agencies. These include, 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.

Body/Organisation Eligibility Comments
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 for the full terms of the agreement.
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, as the public body cannot countersign the application.

3.3 Land receiving other funding or other agreements

You cannot use this grant to carry out capital works which are required under other agreements, for example, work might be required as part of a tenancy agreement or grant schemes such as:

  • Environmental Stewardship
  • other grants within Countryside Stewardship
  • Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme
  • English Woodland Grant schemes
  • Farming Recovery Fund
  • Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Inheritance Tax Exemption.

You must make sure that any work proposed as part of 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.

If your application is on land which is already in an Environmental Stewardship (ES) and/or English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS), Farm Woodland or Farm Woodland Premium Scheme agreement Natural England, the Forestry Commission and RPA will check it to make sure the work is compatible. However it is your responsibility to make sure that you and the land are eligible.

3.3.1 Compatibility with Countryside Stewardship

You can apply for a Woodland Tree Health grant on land parcels which already have a Countryside Stewardship agreement. However, the grant application cannot include any work which is already required by the existing scheme or is a breach of the conditions of the existing agreement.

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 4.8.1 for more information.