Environmental Stewardship: site inspection and what impact it has on your agreement

Understand the inspection process, when and how it happens and what to do if you fail your inspection.

When and how inspections work

The Rural Payment Agency (RPA) will visit a percentage of Entry Level Scheme (ELS), Organic ELS, Upland ELS or Higher Level Scheme (HLS) agreements every year to assess compliance with the scheme terms and conditions.

RPA have to inspect at least 5 per cent of those within the first 5 years of their agreements, and 2.5 per cent of those whose agreements have run on for more than 5 years. Of these, 20 to 25 per cent are selected at random and the remainder by risk.

Allow access and be ready for a site inspection

European Union regulations require that, in many cases, there will be no warning of an inspection. You must give access to your land at any reasonable time and you may be asked to accompany inspecting officers to help identify work and talk through the requirements of your agreement.

Make sure your agreement details are accurate

The areas and lengths of your land under agreement must be accurate. These will be measured at your inspection.

Meet your agreement terms

The ELS (OELS and Uplands ELS) options you choose and location of these options on your land will have created a points target for your agreement. You must make sure you meet these targets to pass your inspection.

Land in HLS will be inspected on the management of the options you’ve chosen within your agreement.

Read Defra guidance on farm inspections.

Read the relevant scheme handbook, from when your agreement started, for full terms and conditions that are expected to meet an inspection:

Penalties for a failed inspection

Deliberate failure to be available to accompany the officer will be treated as unacceptable and potentially as a breach of agreement. In addition, if you refuse an inspection, payment on your agreement will not be made.

Where a breach has occurred by those in receipt of payments under agri-environment schemes Natural England can withhold or reduce payments or make sure payment is not made until a person returns to compliance.

Read section 5: terms and conditions, sub section: What happens if you fail to keep to the terms of your agreement in the relevant scheme handbook for more detail:

Make a complaint

Natural England has a complaints procedure if you disagree with the result of your inspection, or if your site fails an inspection.

Published 11 September 2014