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