Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)

5.3 Who can apply?


5.3.1 Who can join the scheme?

5.3.1 Who can join the scheme?

  • owner occupiers;
  • tenants (including farmers who may have an agreement labelled as a licence but who in practice have wider land management responsibilities) (see Sections 5.3.2 and 5.3.3);
  • landlords (see Section 5.3.4);
  • licensors (see Section 5.3.5); and
  • common land rights holders (see Section 5.3.9).

You must have control of all the activities needed to meet the compulsory scheme requirements and prescriptions of the ELS and Uplands ELS land management options that you have selected. If you do not have full control of all such activities, for instance, due to the land being common land or where separate sporting tenancies are in place, please refer to Sections 5.3.9 and 5.3.10.

You must also have management control of the land for the entire five years of your ELS agreement. If you are not certain to have management control lasting for five years, please refer to Section 5.3.2.

If Natural England find that you are ineligible to have an ELS agreement on any land, reductions and penalties as set out in Section 5.7.2 may apply. You may want to seek independent professional advice relating to your circumstances.

 

5.3.2 What if you are a tenant?

When deciding if your occupation of land is sufficient to allow it to be eligible to include in an ES agreement, it is the rights and responsibilities that you have for the land, and how they operate in practice, that is more important than what any agreement with another party is called. For example, if you only have access to graze or mow land under a grazing licence you will not have sufficient management control of that land for you to use it to claim ELS. If, however, your agreement gives you other responsibilities for the management control of the land, you may in practice have a tenancy and may be able to use that land to apply for ELS.

If you are a tenant under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 (a Farm Business Tenancy) or equivalent, you must ensure that by joining ELS you do not breach the conditions of your tenancy.

To make an application in your own name you must have both:

  • control of all the activities needed to meet the ELS and Uplands ELS compulsory requirements and the prescriptions of the selected ELS land management options; and
  • management control of the land for the entire duration of the ELS agreement.

If you have control of all necessary activities, but do not have security of tenure over the five year duration of the ELS agreement (even if an extension or renewal to your tenancy is expected) you will not have sufficient management control of the land for the five year period of the ELS agreement. You will therefore need to submit an application countersigned by your landlord. You must discuss the proposal with your landlord and complete Section 2 of the application form. The relevant person must sign the declaration at Section 2 of the application form to confirm they will ensure that your agreement commitments are fulfilled, if for any reason you cease to have control over the land during the five years of your ELS agreement.

If you have more than one tenancy with less than five years to run, you need to complete a supplementary land ownership and control form (NE-LOC) for each additional tenancy. These forms are available from your Natural England office (see Appendix 1 for contact details) and can be downloaded from our website at www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/farming/funding/es/forms/default.aspx.

If a countersigned application is not possible on a part of your farm, this part may be omitted from the application and an agreement made on the remaining part.

A tenant’s loss of management control of some or all the land under agreement because of the changing circumstances of their landlord is not a permitted category under force majeure, and will generally require the recovery of all payments on the affected land (see Section 5.7) save for in exceptional circumstances. If your ability to comply with scheme requirements will be partly dependent on a third party (eg a landlord) it is your responsibility to put arrangements in place to safeguard your position should the circumstances of the third party change.

If you are including land in an ELS agreement and another business is using the same land to claim for the Single Payment Scheme (SPS), please refer to Section 5.4.15 of this handbook and to the current SPS Handbook (and any supplements), details in Appendix 2.

 

5.3.3 What if you are a licensee?

In most cases, licensees will not have sufficient control of the range of agricultural activities that is needed to meet the scheme requirements and ELS and Uplands ELS land management option prescriptions.

When deciding if your occupation of land is sufficient to allow it to be eligible to include in an ES agreement, it is the rights and responsibilities that you have for the land, and how they operate in practice, that is more important than what any agreement with another party is called. For example, if you only have access to graze or mow land under a grazing licence you will not have sufficient management control of that land for you to use it to claim ELS. If, however, your agreement gives you other responsibilities for the management control of the land, you may in practice have a tenancy and may be able to use that land to apply for ELS.

 

5.3.4 What if you are a landlord?

Provided you can demonstrate that you have sufficient management control over the land, and you are confident that you can meet your obligations under an ELS agreement in full, you can apply for an agreement on land that has been let to a tenant under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 or the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 (a Farm Business Tenancy) or equivalent.

You must be able to provide evidence, if requested, that you have given the tenant a copy of your ELS agreement conditions and that you have required them to meet these. It is advisable to include these requirements in the tenancy agreement. It will be your responsibility to ensure that your tenant does not breach the terms of your ELS agreement. If your tenant is claiming the SPS on the same land, you must have written evidence signed by both parties. Please refer to Section 5.4.15 of this handbook and the current SPS Handbook (and any supplements), details in Appendix 2.

You may have tenants who wish to apply for ELS on the land themselves. Please note that where your tenant does not have security of tenure for the five year period of the ELS agreement, Natural England require them to secure your countersignature before their application can be accepted see Section 5.3.2.

You should be aware that, if your tenant claims an Uplands Transitional Payment (UTP) and an Uplands ELS agreement commences on land that is available to them for grazing, they will no longer be eligible for UTP on that land and will be required to pay back the UTP they have received for the part of the calendar year in which the Uplands ELS agreement is in force.

 

5.3.5 What if you are a licensor?

It will be your responsibility to ensure that your licensee does not breach the terms of your ES agreement. You should ensure that the licensee is aware of the requirements of the ES agreement, as relevant to the license, and to include these in the license agreement.

You should be aware that, if your licensee claims an UTP and an Uplands ELS agreement commences on land that is available to them for grazing, they will no longer be eligible for UTP on that land and will be required to pay back the UTP they have received for the part of the calendar year in which the Uplands ELS agreement is in force.

 

5.3.6 What about using contractors to manage the land?

You may employ contractors to undertake agricultural work on your land, or to undertake work required under the ELS or Uplands ELS options you have chosen. You should notify the contractor about the agreement and your obligations under it. It will be your responsibility to ensure that they do not breach the terms of your agreement.

 

5.3.7 Are business partnerships and trusts eligible?

If you are a business partnership, trust, or similar, you can make an application, but we will not become involved in any disputes between individuals and you must comply with the following conditions:

  • All members of the business partnership/trust must appoint an authorised signatory to make an application on their behalf and that person must agree to take full responsibility for the agreement.
  • The signatory must sign any amendment and claim forms, where these are necessary.
  • The signatory must take on the responsibility for delivery of the whole agreement.
  • The signatory will receive all the payments and must be responsible for paying back any grant, if there is a breach of the agreement.

 

5.3.8 Are public bodies and their tenants eligible?

We cannot pay for any environmental management that is already required by statutory duty, through payment from Exchequer funds or grant aid from any other public body, or any other form of legally binding obligation.

Crown bodies and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are therefore not eligible for ES agreements. This includes those that are Trading Funds or that otherwise do not receive funding direct from the Exchequer. Crown bodies include all government departments and their executive agencies. They include the Ministry of Defence, the Forestry Commission, the Crown Estate, Forest Enterprise and the Royal Parks. NDPBs are public bodies that have a role in the processes of national government but are not a government department, nor part of one. These include the Environment Agency, Natural England, English Heritage and the National Forest Company.

Parish councils and former college farms are not considered to be public bodies and therefore are eligible to apply for Environmental Stewardship.

A list of NDPBs and other public bodies can be found on the Civil Service website at www.civilservice.gov.uk.

Table 9 Summary of the eligibility of public bodies for Environmental Stewardship

Landowners ELS HLS Comments
Government departments, executive agencies and NDPBs, (eg Ministry of Defence, Forestry Commission, Crown Estate) Ineligible Ineligible   
Other public bodies, (eg local authorities, national park authorities
and public corporations)
Ineligible Eligible Eligible for HLS provided the work does not form part of their obligations as a public
body.
Tenants of public bodies Eligible Eligible Ineligible where the work is already a requirement of the tenancy agreement.
Tenants must have security of tenure for the full term of the agreement, as the public body
cannot countersign the agreement.

 

 

5.3.9 Is common land and shared grazing eligible?

Common land and shared grazing is eligible for ELS, but an appropriate individual must sign the application and be responsible for maintaining the agreement. Please read Common Land and Shared Grazing: Supplement to the Environmental Stewardship Handbooks (NE316). This Supplement clarifies the position with regard to applications and common land and, where it conflicts with this handbook, the supplement overrides the handbook.

When making the application, the signatory must comply with the following conditions:

The signatory must sign both the ELS application form and a common land and shared grazing supplementary application form (NE-CLA4), which contains additional declarations. This supplementary form must also be signed by the owner of the common/shared area, or their appointed representative, unless the owner is making the application or there is no known owner. The supplementary form is available on request from Natural England (see Appendix 1 for contact details) and can also be downloaded from Natural England’s website at www.naturalengland.org.uk (see Appendix 2 for the full web address).

The application will usually cover the whole common or shared area and must not include any other land (eg privately managed in-bye land). Part common agreements are only permitted under exceptional circumstances, as agreed with Natural England in advance. You should make a separate application covering your other land.

The signatory must go to reasonable lengths to contact all graziers or persons who are entitled to exercise rights of common, in particular those actively exercising rights on the land, and provide opportunity for them to comment. This will also include contact with commons associations or commons councils. Details of land to which rights are normally attached, or details of persons holding rights directly, are given in the local authority commons register. The application must provide an outline of the rights associated with the common and the steps taken to contact persons entitled to exercise rights of common.

The signatory must confirm that all graziers or persons exercising rights of common who are party to the application have agreed to abide by the requirements for the options that have been chosen, and the general rules and conditions of the scheme. The signatory must also confirm that those who are not party to the application are not in a position to jeopardise the objectives and requirements of the agreement.

The signatory must take on the responsibility for the delivery of the whole agreement.

All payments will be made to the signatory who must be responsible for paying back any grant if there is found to be a breach of the agreement.

 

5.3.10 What if others hold rights over your land?

You should discuss an intended application with any sporting tenants and anyone else with rights over your land, such as profit à prendre and easements. You should make sure that any activities and the exercise of other rights, will not conflict with the delivery of the required management of the scheme options.

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