Countryside Stewardship what is in it for us?
Countryside Stewardship (CS) is the grant scheme that provides both Agri-environmental incentives and woodland management incentives in England. Different schemes are in effect in Scotland and Wales. It is managed overall by Natural England (NE) with the woodland elements managed by Forestry Commission (FC) Woodland Officers. The payments are in the control of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).
CS is a competitive scheme with each application scored and the grant awarded to the higher scoring schemes. In fact due to a low application rate there has not been any schemes so far that have not been awarded CS. Woodlands score points on size, on priority status, and a number of additional factors such as being in a priority area for woodland birds or other priority species. All these priority areas are mapped and accessible either on the Forestry Commission’s Land Information Site or on DEFRA’s Magic mapping site.
Woodland must be 3ha or more for the area payments and have an FC approved Woodland Management Plan in place. Capital payments can be on smaller areas but have a minimum value of £500.
The basic area payments are £100 per ha and for that you will be expected to undertake works to that value including; deer control, squirrel control, open space management, ride management, thinning and coppicing, invasive species control, veteran tree management (some but not normally all of the above). The agreement will last for five years and start in the January of the year following the application. Applications must be in by March 31st each year.
Capital items include; fencing, temporary fencing, deer high seats, gates etc, bird boxes.
Access tracks are funded through this system but only by 40% of actual cost.
Capital items must be spent and claimed within two years.
In most cases I would say that it is worth it to get the £5.20 a metre temporary fencing for coppicing and you might as well apply for the area payment though the work will definitely cost more than the grant if you have to buy in any expertise.
The paperwork is cumbersome and the evidence required, time consuming (photos of before and after) but if you can cope with that then go for it.
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