Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)

5.4 Is your land eligible?


5.4.1 What land can you enter into the scheme?

Land to be entered into the scheme must be registered on the Rural Land Register (RLR) and it must be part of the farmed environment. By ‘farmed environment’ we mean:

  • all your farmed land. ELS is a whole-farm scheme, so your application must include all the eligible farmland that you manage; and
  • other non-farmed land. You may also enter other land that does not contribute to your farming system but is still considered part of the farmed environment. For example, large blocks of woodland, parcels of scrub, disused mineral sites and neglected areas.

Entering non-farmed land into ELS will increase the whole-farm area and therefore your points target that must be delivered, as well as the overall payment. Placing options on non-farmed land may, however, be difficult, inappropriate or impossible. Where this is the case, you will have to locate additional options elsewhere to meet your points target. Where such land covers a large proportion of your farm, you may find it difficult to deliver enough options to reach your points target. If this is the case, you may prefer to exclude some of these areas from your application (although you will not receive payment for the excluded area).

Your application may include land registered under more than one CPH number or Single Business Identifier (SBI).

Any land parcels entered into the scheme must be entirely within England. Parcels that are either partly or entirely within Scotland or Wales are not eligible for ELS.

To join Uplands ELS your eligible land must include at least one parcel within an SDA.

 

5.4.2 What land must be excluded from your application?

The following land must be excluded:

  • developed land and hard standing (including permanent caravan sites and areas used for permanent storage). Although this land will not contribute to the points target, you can earn points on developed land where it contains a traditional farm building (TFB) that is recorded on your FER and managed under the appropriate option;
  • significant areas (1 ha or more) of standing and running water, with the exception of intertidal habitats;
  • land that is already subject to another scheme or obligation that is incompatible with Environmental Stewardship (see Section 5.4.3);
  • common land or shared grazing with multiple rights holders or graziers (which can enter ELS but only as a stand-alone agreement separate from an agreement on your other land – see Section 5.3.9);
  • land where you do not have management control for five years and a countersigned agreement is not possible.

 

5.4.3 Is land that is subject to another scheme or obligation eligible?

As a general rule, we cannot pay you for management that you, or your landlord, are required to do under an existing scheme or obligation.

If land that you intend entering into ELS is in receipt of funding from another grant scheme, you cannot also receive ELS funding for the same work. Work that is outside the scope of ELS may, however, be eligible for grants from other organisations, including local authorities.

You must make sure that there are no other duties or obligations on you or the land that would conflict with your ELS agreement.

The following paragraphs list the most frequently occurring alternative schemes and obligations. Please look through this section to check if any of them apply to your land.

 

5.4.4 Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) and Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs)

If you already have a CSS or ESA agreement covering some of your land, you cannot apply for ELS on the same land. You may, however, be able to apply for ELS on any land that is not receiving funding under the CSS or ESA agreement. Uplands ELS and UTP cannot be claimed on the same holding at the same time.

Follow the instructions below, to determine which land parcels should be included in your ELS application:

  • If a CSS or ESA option covers a whole parcel, it may not be included in your ELS application or points target. This means that you can do one of the following:
    • ask us to delete the relevant parcel number before sending your pre-filled application form; or
    • if you already have your pre-filled application form, you can cross out the relevant parcel number on Annex 2 of your application form (your Field Data Sheet) and on your application maps (see Section 4 for detailed instructions on how to do this). If you need to delete several parcels, you may prefer to ask us for a new set of forms and application maps.
  • If the CSS/ESA option covers only part of a parcel (for example, grass margins), you must include the whole parcel in your ELS application. However, to avoid being paid twice for the same thing, you must not locate any ELS options on top of any of your CSS/ESA options. In Uplands ELS, if you have a CSS or ESA option covering part of a field, you cannot include those fields in your Uplands ELS application.
  • Land in CSS/ESA rotational options should be included in your ELS application, but you must ensure that each year there is no overlap of CSS/ESA and ELS options on the ground. Whilst the CSS/ESA rotational options may overlap with the Uplands ELS compulsory requirement UX2, there must be no overlap between the CSS/ESA rotational option and the actual management requirements of UX2. In particular, there must be no overlap between the rotational option and the 6 m protection zone alongside watercourses required under UX2.
  • Land in receipt of CSS/ESA open, linear and educational access payments only, should also be included in your ELS application and points target. You must ensure, however, that any ELS options sited on the land do not obstruct or otherwise conflict with the objectives of the access.
  • CSS boundaries – ELS boundary options can be located on boundaries that are included within CSS options (whether that is a CSS whole-parcel option or a capital grant). This is because the two schemes (CSS and ES) have different and complementary management prescriptions. However, the EB14 boundary restoration option cannot be located on boundaries included within CSS options.
  • ESA boundaries – ELS boundary options must not be located within the area covered by the ESA agreement.

Early transfer from CSS or ESA agreements
There are specific European regulations relating to the early transfer of CSS and ESA agreements into ELS – there must be significant environmental benefits, the commitments of the existing agreement must be substantially reinforced in the new one, and the new agreement must offer value for money. For these reasons, while it is possible to carry out early transfer from CSS or ESA agreements, in practice, these opportunities are very limited. We do not accept early transfer applications from CSS or ESA into ELS alone, and will only consider combined ELS/HLS applications in exceptional circumstances.

The Uplands Transitional Payment (UTP) is available in upland areas where farmers used to claim Hill Farm Allowance and there is still a live CSS or ESA agreement on the holding. Uplands ELS and UTP cannot be claimed on the same holding at the same time. UTP is paid each spring for the whole calendar year. If you have received UTP and then enter your holding into Uplands ELS/HLS through an early transfer before the end of the calendar year, all of your holding becomes ineligible for UTP when the Uplands ELS agreement starts and you will need to repay the UTP grant you have received for the remainder of the calendar year. If another person is claiming UTP on the holding you have entered into Uplands ELS, they will have to repay the UTP grant received in respect of that holding for the rest of the calendar year. The RPA will advise on repayment details – you should read the booklet Uplands Transitional Payment 2012 to 2014 (RPA contact details are in Appendix 2).

Further details about UTP can be found in Section 5.4.18.

If you are considering early transfer, you should discuss this in detail with your CSS/ESA adviser within Natural England before submitting an application. The adviser will take advice from colleagues and will then advise on the most appropriate course of action. If you do not know who your CSS/ESA adviser is, please contact Natural England (see Appendix 1 for contact details).

Part farm entry to Uplands ELS
If you have a CSS/ESA agreement on part of your holding, you may decide to enter another part of your holding, not currently under any agri-environment scheme, into Uplands ELS. Uplands ELS and UTP cannot be claimed on the same holding at the same time. If you have received UTP and then enter part of your holding into Uplands ELS/HLS before the end of the calendar year, all of your holding becomes ineligible for UTP when the Uplands ELS agreement starts and you will need to repay the UTP grant you have received in respect of the holding for the remainder of the calendar year. If another person is claiming UTP on the holding you have entered into Uplands ELS, they will have to repay the UTP grant received in respect of that holding for the rest of the calendar year. The RPA will advise on repayment details – you should read the booklet Uplands Transitional Payment 2012 to 2014 (RPA contact details are in Appendix 2).

 

5.4.5 Energy Crops Scheme (ECS)

Land in the ECS can count towards the area used to calculate your ELS points target and associated payment, but you may not locate any ELS options on land planted under the ECS (including any ECS paid area of open ground). Where ECS planting (including paid areas of open ground) is on a part-parcel basis, ELS options may be located within the land parcel, provided there is no overlap of ELS options with ECS-payable areas on the ground. Boundaries surrounding ECS parcels may be entered into ELS boundary management options.

 

5.4.6 The Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2006

These regulations aim to protect environmentally significant areas, specifically uncultivated land and seminatural areas, from being damaged by works which increase the agricultural productivity of the land.

Where this is the case, contact Natural England before carrying out any of the following activities on uncultivated or semi-natural land. The type of agricultural operations (‘projects’) covered include ploughing; chemical cultivation; digging; scraping; draining; liming; reseeding; spreading soil or manure or any soil improver; increased application of fertiliser; broadcast spraying of any wide spectrum; and/or selective herbicide or any other work that increases the productivity of the land. The regulations also cover certain types of restructuring projects on rural land holdings.

It is unlikely that ELS or Uplands ELS options will alter the status of land in relation to these regulations, but you should consider this before you apply. If you have any queries about the regulations please contact the Environmental Impact Assessment Helpline on 0800 028 2140.

 

5.4.7 Felling Licences/Tree Preservation Orders

Where your ELS management involves removing trees or managing overgrown hedges, you must ensure that you have obtained any necessary Felling Licences or other required permissions before starting work. When felling more than 5 m3 of timber in a calendar quarter, you may need a Forestry Commission (FC) Felling Licence. For further information, the FC has produced the guidance Tree Felling – getting permission (available at www.forestry.gov.uk).

You may also need permission for work on trees that are subject to a TPO. Ask your local authority Tree Officer for advice.

 

5.4.8 Habitat Scheme

Land in a Habitat Scheme agreement may be included in your ELS eligible area, and contribute to your points target and payment. However, you may not locate any ELS options on this land. If this makes it harder to achieve your points target, you can exclude this land from your application.

 

5.4.9 Inheritance Tax/Capital Gains Tax exemption

Land designated by HM Revenue and Customs as conditionally exempt from Inheritance Tax, or as the object of a maintenance fund, is normally eligible for ELS. However, you must not claim for work that is a formal requirement of the undertakings agreed with HM Revenue and Customs. Owners should ensure that tenants are aware of such designations and are properly informed of relevant undertakings. Tenants can find out if land is designated by checking the website www.hmrc.gov.uk/heritage. You will need to look carefully at the relevant ELS and Uplands ELS options that are available for this land, to ensure you do not include ineligible work in your application.

Keep a copy of a map on which you have clearly marked the boundary of any exempt or designated land, and be prepared on any subsequent compliance inspection to be able to demonstrate on a parcel-byparcel basis how the selected options do not overlap with the undertakings. Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure your application meets these scheme rules.

A guidance note, Environmental Stewardship for heritage properties designated under the Inheritance Tax Act 1984, is available for heritage properties designated under the Inheritance Tax Act 1984 (NE161, 2012). It provides more detailed information for owners and tenants of Inheritance Tax exempt properties and their advisers. You can download it from the publications catalogue on our website at www.naturalengland.org.uk or you can request a paper copy from us, contact details in Appendix 1.

 

5.4.10 Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs)

If you are in an NVZ, you must make sure that you comply with the mandatory NVZ Action Programme rules. These rules apply to minimise the risk of nitrate pollution from agriculture to protect national water supplies and water habitats. If your land is within an NVZ (including the new areas designated in 2009), it is your responsibility to ensure you can meet the rules of both the NVZ Action Programme and ELS. Where the rules overlap, you must meet those that are the most demanding.

For example, the maximum manure application rate for Permanent grassland with very low inputs (EK3) is 12.5 tonnes/ha of farm yard manure only (approximately 75 kg nitrogen/ha). This restriction is more demanding than the standard NVZ field limit of 250 kg of nitrogen per ha; as a result, the ELS restriction must be followed. Also be sure to include this calculation when considering your NVZ fertiliser plan and manure management plan.

Further information on the NVZ Action Programme measures and detailed maps of NVZ locations are available on the Defra website at www.defra.gov.uk (see Appendix 2 for other related websites, eg Farming Advice Service).

 

5.4.11 Producer Organisation Aid Scheme

The Producer Organisation Aid Scheme operates under Pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy. Management funded under the Producer Organisation Aid Scheme (for example, Operation Bumble Bee) cannot be funded under ELS.

 

5.4.12 Protected species

Some species are partly or fully protected by legislation. Examples of the most commonly encountered protected wildlife include:

  • All wild birds and their eggs and nests that are in use or being built are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
  • Bats, otters, dormice and great crested newts, plus other species of more restricted distributions, are protected by Part 3 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. These European protected species are protected from disturbance and from damage to the places they use to rest and shelter (for example, bat roosts, otter holts).

It is very unlikely that ELS management will conflict with species protection obligations. For example, the hedge management options restrict maintenance works to outside the bird-nesting season. However, if protected species are present on your farm, you will need to consider their protection requirements before undertaking management activities. Choosing appropriate options can help to maintain suitable habitat.

Advice about protected species is available in the ‘Wildlife Management and Licensing Service’ section of our website at www.naturalengland.org.uk.

Details of current wildlife legislation can be viewed at www.legislation.gov.uk.

 

5.4.13 Scheduled Monuments

Scheduled Monuments, and other land covered by an English Heritage management agreement, can count towards the area used to calculate your ELS points target and associated payment, provided there is no overlap between the requirements of the English Heritage agreement and the general ELS requirements.

Similarly, you may only locate ELS options on land covered by an English Heritage management agreement if there is no overlap between the requirements of the English Heritage agreement and the option prescriptions.

You should be prepared, on any compliance inspection, to be able to demonstrate on a parcel-by-parcel basis how the selected options do not overlap with your existing undertakings. Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure your application meets these scheme rules.

Scheduled Monuments in respect of which you are not receiving payment from English Heritage are eligible for ELS. You must ensure there is no conflict between ELS management and the management requirements of the Scheduled Monuments.

 

5.4.14 Single Payment Scheme (SPS)

SPS and ELS are two separate schemes and land used to claim payments under SPS may also be entered into ELS.

Natural England will cross-check all agri-environment payments against SPS claims. Therefore, when completing your ELS and SPS forms, you must ensure that the ELS and Uplands ELS options and SPS land use codes you use are compatible. Natural England will investigate any case where the SPS land use codes declared for the SPS conflict, or appear to conflict, with ELS and Uplands ELS option codes. For example, Natural England will check that an ELS arable option is not located on land registered as Permanent Pasture on your SPS claim (SP5).

When completing your future SPS claim forms, please note in particular that:

  • The majority of ES options are eligible to be claimed under SPS, however, some may be eligible for ES but ineligible for SPS.
  • Woodlands, scrub, inter-tidal habitats and some hedges, that form Permanent Ineligible Features and Temporary Ineligible Features are deductable from SPS claims, but are still eligible for payments underES agreements. The RPA has produced guidance about these options and the circumstances in which they can be claimed for SPS. Please refer to the SPS Handbook and any supplements (see Appendix 2 for details).
  • Most ELS grassland options must be coded as PP4 (Permanent pasture on EU agri-environment scheme land).
  • Part-parcel ELS arable options, such as buffer strips, field corners, conservation headlands and beetle banks, should not have a separate SPS code from the rest of the land parcel. Use the appropriate SPS code for the crop that is growing in the parcel.
  • You should only use SPS land use code AE1 if there is no other suitable land use code. For example, use OT1 for arable land and PP4 for permanent pasture, including moorland and rough grazing.
  • Through required management under some ELS options, land may become ineligible for SPS by the end of your agreement, for example, management of woodland edges.

When completing your ELS application form, please note that:

  • Some ELS grassland options can only be located on land already classed as permanent pasture on your SPS.
  • Arable options can only be located on land currently under arable SPS codes.
  • You can have more than one option adjacent to each other within a land parcel without affecting the RLR details, providing there is no permanent boundary between the options.

For further details of SPS codes, please refer to the SPS Handbook and any supplements or contact the RPA (see Appendix 2 for details). For details of how the cross compliance rules apply to ELS, see Section 5.5.1.

 

5.4.15 Can you use land to apply for ELS that someone else is using to apply for SPS?

In certain limited situations land may be included in an ELS agreement by one person and that same land used to claim SPS by someone else at the same time. This is known as 'dual use'.

The ELS agreement applicant has to be able to meet the ELS eligibility rules, including having management control of the land, whilst at the same time the SPS claimant must be able to demonstrate having the same land ‘at their disposal’ under the SPS rules. For example, a landlord may be able to have management control of the land for ELS purposes whilst the tenant has the same land at his disposal to claim SPS.

Where a tenant is eligible for, and holds an ELS agreement, a landlord would not be eligible for SPS. This is because they would not be able to demonstrate that they have land at their disposal for SPS purposes.

The fact that you may have an agreement with another party who will use the land to apply for payment does not mean that you have the land at your disposal. It is the rights and responsibilities you have in relation to the land, and how they operate in practice, which determine this.

If you are entering land into an ELS agreement on the same land that another farmer or land manager is using to claim SPS, you must have a written record which shows the rights and responsibilities you each have for the land. This written record should set out how you have management control for ELS and how the other party meets the SPS scheme rules, including having the land at their disposal. This must include evidence that you have given a copy of your ELS scheme agreement conditions to the other party and that they have been required to meet them (unless you can show that you are carrying out the required activities yourself). This written record could be a tenancy agreement, a letter or both, containing the required information, which must be signed and dated by both parties in advance of the SPS application deadline (usually 15th May). We may ask to see a copy of this as part of our checks. You may want to get independent professional advice relating to your circumstances, especially if you previously had a verbal agreement with the other party.

For further details, please refer to the current Single Payment Scheme (SPS) Handbook (including any supplements), details in Appendix 2.

 

5.4.16 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)

ELS management must not conflict with the management requirements of any SSSI ELS management must not conflict with the management requirements of any

When giving such permission, it may be necessary for Natural England to amend an ELS application to ensure it is consistent with the SSSI management requirements, to protect the site from deterioration or to avoid hindering its recovery. This will be achieved either by adding or removing options from the SSSI land area, or by adding conditions to the standard option prescriptions. Where this is necessary, Natural England will discuss it with you first.

Permission for management activities on SSSI land granted as part of an ELS agreement are limited to the duration of that agreement and do not transfer from one land manager to another. For additional detail please refer to the Uplands ELS/SSSI conditions and requirements leaflet, available from Natural England (see Appendix 1 for contact details).

Please note also the specific requirements about derogations on SSSI land at Section 5.6.6.

This procedure will also apply to any Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) included in an ELS application.

 

5.4.17 Tenancy conditions

ELS and Uplands ELS options cannot be used for management that a tenant or landlord is required to carry out as an obligation of a legal undertaking, including a tenancy agreement. ELS and Uplands ELS options can be placed on features (for example, buildings or walls) already covered by a tenancy agreement provided the work undertaken for the option is over and above that required by the existing obligation.

 

5.4.18 Uplands Transitional Payment (UTP)

UTP is claimed by whoever previously claimed Hill Farm Allowance on that holding. That can be the landlord, tenant, or grazier on a holding; this is not always the CSS or ESA agreement holder.

If anyone has received payment for UTP on this land, the payment covers the full calendar year in which it was made, or the period up to the end of the last qualifying ESA and/or CSS agreement, whichever is the sooner.

Uplands ELS and UTP cannot be claimed on the same land at the same time. If you enter land into Uplands ELS where UTP has been claimed, or already paid, it will reduce the amount of UTP payable on that land.

If you enter any parcel of land into Uplands ELS, the rest of your land (or the land you manage) becomes ineligible for you to claim UTP. No one else can claim UTP on a parcel where you are receiving Uplands ELS.

If you claim UTP and enter Uplands ELS before your UTP has been made, the RPA will calculate the proportion of UTP you are eligible for and pay the reduced amount.

If you have claimed UTP and enter Uplands ELS after UTP has been paid, the RPA will ask you to repay the difference between the amount you were paid and the amount to which you are now entitled.

If another person claims the UTP and you enter Uplands ELS before UTP has been paid, the RPA will recalculate their eligible payment and pay the reduced amount.

If another person claims the UTP and you enter Uplands ELS after UTP has been paid, the RPA will ask the UTP claimant to repay the difference between the amount they were paid and the amount to which they are now entitled.

UTP and ELS (without Uplands ELS)
Land on which you are claiming UTP is eligible to count towards your ELS points target and you may put ELS options on UTP land.

The Uplands Transitional Payment 2012 to 2014 booklet contains more information concerning the periods covered by the UTP and is available from the RPA’s Customer Service Centre by telephoning 0845 603 7777.

Please refer to Section 5.4.4 for further details about early transfer from CSS or ESA agreements and part farm entry into Uplands ELS.

 

5.4.19 Woodland schemes

Woodlands under Farm Woodland Premium Scheme, Farm Woodland Scheme, Woodland Grant Scheme and the English Woodland Grant Scheme agreements can count towards your eligible land area. However, ELS options may not be co-located with any land, including open space, funded under those schemes. The exceptions are the Uplands ELS compulsory requirements (UX1-UX3). For more details about these options, please see Section 3. Where a hedge or ditch forms the boundary between land under a woodland scheme and land under ELS, then single-sided boundary options can be used.

ADLib logo Content provided by the Agricultural Document Library
© University of Hertfordshire, 2011