The application window for Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier is now open and the official guidance has been published by the Rural Payment Agency.
Higher Tier grants provide multi-year management options and capital items which supports organic management and conversion, woodland improvement and habitat creation, restoration and on-going management of sites recognised for their environmental importance. Higher Tier grants support the enhancement and protection sites including species rich grassland, wet grasslands, water meadows, wood pastures, orchards, hedgerows and traditional farm buildings to name a few examples.
Applicants are able to combine a wide range of revenue and capital options within their application and applicants now have 3 years to complete capital works. The majority of agreements will be for a term of 5 years, with some management revenue options lasting for 10 years. Applicants now have greater flexibility to combine Countryside Stewardship with the new and proposed environmental schemes such as the Sustainable Farming Incentive.
The deadline to submit the initial application for Higher Tier is 28th April 2023 (midnight).
Higher Tier is competitive and initial applications will be judged by scoring and ranking depending on the environmental benefit. Applicants will be notified of their success or failure in early June, and successful applicants will be invited to submit a final application. Natural England and/or the Forestry Commission will help develop successful applications with the deadline to submit final applications by 31st August 2023. If successful, your agreement will start on 1st January 2024.
Following the review of the revenue and capital grant payment rates in January 2023, now is the ideal time to apply for Countryside Stewardship. As Higher Tier agreements are aimed at protecting and enhancing protected landscapes and sites of environmental importance, we would recommend planning your initial application as soon as possible. If you feel that Higher Tier is not suitable for you, a Mid-Tier or Wildlife Offer agreement may be more appropriate for you. The application window for Mid-Tier and Wildlife Offers opens on 21st March 2023.