• Funding for Conservation


      Agri-environment schemes

      Starting in the late 1980's as Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs), progressing to Environmental Stewardship (ES) in 2005 and in its most recent guise as the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS), agri-environment schemes have played an important part in farm management on the South Downs.  By providing an opportunity to create and manage habitat for farmland birds and other wildlife, protect important resources including soil and water, and securing a fixed income for the farm, these schemes can make sense for the farm business and for wildlife.

      Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS)

      Launched in June 2015, CSS is the latest agri-environment scheme available to farmers and landowners.  It is an online scheme, and the manual can be downloaded here.  The following provides details of how the scheme works and where to find the relevant information.

      CSS is divided into three tiers:

      • Higher Tier - multi year agreements for environmentally significant sites, commons and woodlands where more complex management requires support from Natural England or the Forestry Commission, including management options and capital grants.  Potential applicants are required to complete an Expression of Interest (EoI) form prior to a full application to summarise the environmental benefits they want to provide. Natural England will use this information to decide which sites offer the most environmental benefits, and which applications will receive support from a Natural England Advisor
      • Middle Tier - multi-year agreements for environmental improvements in the wider countryside, including multi year management options and capital grants.  Application details can be found here
      • Capital grants - a range of 1 to 2 year grants for hedgerows and boundaries, improving water quality, developing implementation plans, feasibility studies, woodland creation (establishment), woodland improvement and tree health

      Applications for CSS are competitive, and should be based upon area 'Statements of priorities'.  The South Downs statement and accompanying map can be found here.  A wide range of management options are available to deliver for the identified priorities, a full list of the options, what management they require and what payment rates they attract can be found here.

      To help guide the choice of management options, the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package has been developed.  Following this will ensure that an agreement contains year round habitat requirements for farmland birds, pollinators and other wildlife.  The package for Middle tier should cover at least 3% of the holding, and for Higher tier at least 5%.  This page contains further information and a list of which options contribute to the package (under 6.3).

      New for 2018

      CSS now also contains four new Offers.  Based on Arable, Lowland Grazing, Upland and Mixed Farming, these new Offers will provide tailored options covering the full range of different farm types, so farmers and land managers can deliver environmental benefits no matter where they are or what they farm.

      Paperwork for the new offers is quicker and easier to get through, due to streamlined evidence checks and shorter application forms designed to help save farmers valuable time. The scheme is also non-competitive, meaning that all farmers who meet the eligibility requirements can get an agreement to deliver as few as 3 options, or as many as 7 up to 14, depending on the offer applied for.

      The changes have been made to help more farmers get back into agri-environment schemes, with options such as the popular nectar flower mix which many farmers delivered under the ELS schemes available to apply for in the new CS offers.  Application packs can be requested from Natural England on 0208 026 1089 or email enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk.

      New information will be added to this page as and when it becomes available.  Advice is also available form the SDFBI partnership (see here).


      Other funding sources

      Information to follow