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20,000 Environmental Stewardship payments worth £47m delivered so far

Thousands of advance HLS and ELS payments have been made this week, with payments set to continue throughout October, November and December.
ELS and HLS payments are already months late
ELS and HLS payments are already months late

More than 20,000 farmers have received advance Environmental Stewardship payments worth £47.5 million, according to figures released by Natural England and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

 

More payments will go out this month, with the remaining payments due to be made in November and December.

 

Last week, Natural England and the RPA said 25,521 Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) claimants, 53 per cent of the total, would be paid £70m in October.

 

The payments, usually made in August, have already been significantly delayed, largely due to delays with the BPS application process, which had a knock-on effect for the requirement for agri-environment payments to be cross-checked with BPS payments.

 

But while more than half of ELS and HLS applicants will be paid this month, 47 per cent are having to wait until November and December for their advance payments. In many cases, these delays are affecting claimants who were subject to inspections.

 

Members of the NFU Council last week expressed concern at problems reported in passing information from inspections back to Natural England, which they believe have contributed to the delays.

 

Defra said: “The Rural Payments Agency and Natural England will be working to get payments to the remaining recipients as soon as possible to fund environmentally friendly farming, restore hedges and improve water quality."

 

The advance payments represent 50 per cent of the total, with the balance to be paid next year.

 

Farming Minister George Eustice said: “We have worked hard to overcome setbacks earlier this year and I am pleased to confirm that the payment of the first instalment under Environmental Stewardship schemes have begun to be paid.”

Countryside Stewardship

Natural England has received more than 3,500 applications for the new £900m Countryside Stewardship scheme, which will replace Environmental Stewardship over the next five years.

 

These include application for the mid-tier and high-tier CSS strands.

 

There have been serious concerns voiced by the industry about scheme uptake, particularly for mid-tier CSS, as farmers have complained about onerous scheme requirements, including excessive record-keeping, a lack of relevant upland and livestock options and problems with the application process.

 

Defra had budgeted for 4,500 new mid-tier agreements but received just 2,314 applications by the September 30 deadline.

 

But Mr Eustice said: "We have seen strong interest in the mid-tier and high-tier Countryside Stewardship schemes with over 3,500 applications received.

 

"We have a good track record in delivering results for the environment through our approach to Countryside Stewardship with measures to support farmland birds, pollinators and improved water quality.”


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