Countryside Stewardship Deadline

Newsflash

You have just one week to apply for Countryside Stewardship for the year commencing January 2016 (the next window will be this time next year for 2017)
Multi Annual Agreement (MAA) can be applied for at a rate of £100/ha for ‘actively managed woods’ On top of that you may be able to get money for fencing £4/m or temporary deer fencing £5.20/m and these items can be applied for with or without the MAA but all applications must be in by 31st of July 2015 (This is a draft application and will be worked up to a Sept deadline) .

The criteria for draft applications is that they have a minimum area of 3ha, meet a threshold score of 1000 points, have an Approved Woodland Management Plan in place, the woods are registered on the Rural Land Registry, and that applicants have a Customer Registration Number (CRN) from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA)
The applications that make it through to September will then be entered into a ‘pool’ and money allocated on a points based system which is calculated thus:
1000 points for broadleaf woodland +
1000 for a SSSI wood
and or 1000 for being in a Woodland Bird Assemblage
x Area (bigger woods will score more but it is just the area that is ‘actively managed’)
So how will this support coppicing?
We were disappointed to find that capital payments for coppice restoration had been dropped under this scheme but on the plus side that all woodlands that are eligible for the MAA will be expected to undertake ‘one or more of the following options’

To enhance priority habitats, applicants must:
• manage successional scrub through cyclical cutting
• re-coppice as agreed with an adviser
• thin or selectively fell trees as agreed with an adviser
In addition there is quite an onerous list of other obligations such as trapping grey squirrels and deer control but many of them are the things that we do anyway.

Worked example for a 6.63ha oak/birch woodland
It scores 2663 – 1000 high priority wood + 1000 woodland bird assemblage +10% of 1000 x 6.63ha
Capital items applied for 1000m of FG10 temporary deer fencing @£5.20 = £5,200
FG1 268m @ £4 = £1072
If we are able to claim that the whole woodland is in active management as we have in addition to the coppicing a programme of thinning in part of the wood as well as deer management and squirrel control for which we will receive a MAA of £663 per year to subsidise the work involved.
Does it add up? Well we can’t afford the temporary fencing without it, so the decision is to go ahead and keep our fingers crossed.
If you can meet the criteria above get an application in and at least you will have a chance and the theory is that there will not be many applications as getting to grips with this is a nightmare! All info is on the www.gov.uk website you may need 3 computers to cross reference all the different forms and guidance, that is if you save a few forests by not printing it all out. Good luck!

There have been quite a lot of changes lately in how coppicing is supported by the state . In the past the Forestry Commission (FC) ran the England Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS) and some woodlands came under Natural England’s (NE) Higher Level Stewardship grants (HLS). There was a bit of confusion over which woods went under one scheme or the other but both schemes had support for coppicing within them. With Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform and a new settlement for EU funding for the period 2014 -2021 there have been many changes. Firstly the decision was made to bring the two schemes together under one Defra run scheme, then to call that scheme Countryside Stewardship and have it managed by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). FC and NE will still be involved in the delivery.
The main issues for woodland owners are that now to get a grant everyone will need an FC approved management plan on their woods .
There are some capital items that woodland owners can apply for such as fencing and gates.
The main support will be an area payment for active woodland management such as coppicing but this will only be at £100/ha. (Compared to £1920/ha under the old scheme )
It won’t be a blanket payment over all the woodland owned but just the actively managed areas though I have heard that we will be able to include all an ‘in rotation’ coppice woodland not just the active coup.
Woodland owners with more than 3ha of woodland can get a Woodland Planning Grant to contribute a minimum of £1000 to write a Management Plan for their woods. There is a Small Woodland Template which is simpler but no grant attached and does take a couple of days to do .
The element that is not yet clear is how the FC and NE elements will interact. We are told that there can only be one application per holding per year for area payments so if the woodlands are part of a larger agricultural estate then coordination will be needed between the woodland and agricultural elements.
NCFed have been engaging with the policy makers over the changes and the concern is that there will be a reduction in active management in woodlands where operations are not economic. Local coppicer and newsletter editor Ian Taylor wrote to Tim Farron MP who took his concerns up with George Eustice MP, Under-secretary of state for Farming Food and Marine Environment. The letter received in return outlines the rationale for removing support for coppicing ie that ‘coppicing is now an economically viable operation due to the increased value of wood fuel’ also that EU rules state that the grants can only be paid for ‘income foregone’ and actual costs incurred through delivery of schemes.
This poses the question as to why farmers are subsidised to produce environmental benefits whereas coppice workers and woodland owners are not seen to be suffering ‘income forgone’ by working in an environmentally sensitive way. After all we could all get a grant (40% Countryside Productivity) for a big machine and go and pull out 20 tonne of timber a day with scant regard for the woodland flora and fauna. That way perhaps we could say that Coppicing is now economic!

Rebecca Oaks

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