The Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched Countryside Stewardship, aimed at improving the environmental health of rural United Kingdom. This is set to provide financial incentives to look after and improve the land use in these areas, through a number of set schemes.
Countryside Stewardship is a government scheme that aims to improve the environmental health of rural areas, specifically looking at:
- Conserving and restoring wildlife habitats
- Food risk management
- Woodland creation and management
- Reducing widespread water pollution from agriculture
- Keeping the character of the countryside
- Preserving historical features in the landscape
- Encouraging educational access
Looking at the environment holistically, DEFRA has introduced 4 schemes that interested parties can apply for, in return for financial incentives. Primarily this would be open for farmers, woodland owners, foresters and land managers, although there is also applications available for those involved in the production of organic foods, organisations involved in the improvement of domestic water supplies and those who have specific interests in the likes of protecting SSSI, nature reserves and coastal areas. There are 4 schemes, including:
1) Higher Tier – Multi-year agreements and works conducted on the most environmentally important sites, normally involving complex managements such as habitat restoration.
2) Mid Tier – Focuses on environmental issues, such as reducing water pollution and improving farmed environments for wild pollinators and birdlife.
3) Wildlife Offers – Primarily working with specific farming practices, supporting wildlife by creating sources of nectar and pollen, as well winter food for birds and improving habitats.
4) Capital Grants – Shortest period of agreement, includes improving hedgerows and boundaries, Woodland Management Plans and Woodland Tree Health.
As stated, the Higher Tier schemes would offer the greatest financial incentives but would involve the most challenging work. The durations of the work vary between each scheme, including over 5 years for Higher Tier sites to 2 years for Capital Grants. Furthermore, offers vary from being competitive to non-competitive. The application process is run by DEFRA and is now inviting applications. Notice of Countryside Stewardship is made on the DEFRA website, dated 22nd February 2019.
Full Scheme published by DEFRA: