ARCHIVE: Entry Level Stewardship Handbook 2005 (PB10355)

1.2    Who can apply?

ELS is open to all farmers and land managers who are:

  • Freehold owners,

  • Tenants, or

  • Contractual licensees

Land entered into ELS management options must be agricultural or part of the farmed environment.

Any field parcels entered into the scheme must be entirely within England. Field parcels, either partly or entirely, within Scotland or Wales are not eligible for ELS.

You must have management control of the land (see below) for the entire five years of your agreement. If you are not certain to have management control lasting five years, you can make a countersigned application with the person who undertakes to carry on your agreement if your management control of the land ceases. Further guidance on countersigned applications is provided in section 1.2.3 of this handbook.

Please note that this and subsequent sections of the ELS handbook refer to the land. ‘Land’ for the purpose of ELS is all the land and associated field boundaries registered on the Rural Land Register (RLR) that is farmed as one business enterprise and submitted as a single ELS application. Your application may include land registered under more than one holding number.

Common land is eligible for the scheme, but you must follow the guidance in section 1.2.5 of this handbook.

1.2.1    Is my land on the Rural Land Register?

All the land which you intend to enter into the scheme must be on the Rural Payment Agency’s Rural Land Register (RLR) before you submit your application. The RLR provides a digital record of all farmed land in England and use of this database will help ensure that applications can be processed quickly and efficiently.

All management options must be on RLR registered land or along associated field boundaries. Most farmers will already have been contacted by RPA and supplied with maps to confirm details about land parcels that are included on the RLR. Where this is not the case, you should contact RPA about registering your land before you apply (see appendix 6 for RPA contact details).

If you are an existing agri-environment scheme agreement holder (e.g. Countryside Stewardship Scheme or Farm Woodland Premium Scheme), you do not need to register land already covered by your existing agreement, unless you intend to claim Single Payment Scheme payments on it.

This is a whole farm scheme, so your application should include all the eligible RLR registered land that you occupy and manage as a single business enterprise. This land can include areas covered by woodland and scrub, provided they are registered on the RLR.

Your farm may have some unregistered land, such as woodland, areas of scrub or unimproved grassland; you may wish to register this land so that it can be included in your application and contribute towards the payment you receive. Please check your registration information and contact RPA to register any unregistered parcels if necessary.

If you have large areas of woodland (e.g. parcels over 10 ha), registered on the RLR, these will normally be included in your application and count towards your payment and points target. However, where a large proportion of your land is covered by woodland, you may find it difficult to deliver enough options to reach your points target. In this situation, you may choose to exclude woodland parcels from your application, but you will not receive ELS payment for the excluded areas. If you find it necessary to delete a woodland parcel, you should follow the instructions provided in section 2.3.1.

1.2.2    What is an RPA ‘vendor number’?

The ‘vendor number’ is a unique trader registration number allocated to you by the RPA so that you can receive payments. You must enter this number at section 1 of your application form. If you previously claimed payments under IACS or under an ERDP scheme (see appendix 6 for a list of ERDP schemes) you will have already been issued with a vendor number.

If you do not have a vendor number, you must obtain one from the RPA (contact details are provided in appendix 6 of this handbook).

1.2.3    What if I do not own some or all of the land?

If you are a tenant or contractual licensee you must discuss your application with your landlord to ensure that you do not breach the conditions of your tenancy/licence. If you do not have sufficient control over management of the land, or if your tenancy/licence has less than five years to run, even if you are expecting a further extension, your landlord/the land owner must agree to take over in the event of your control lapsing. S/he must countersign your application to this effect. Alternatively, your landlord may apply for an agreement and discuss with you the delivery of the options and management required.

If you need to make a countersigned application you should discuss the proposal with the relevant person (e.g. the freehold owner, your landlord, the person whose land you farm) and complete section 2 of the application form. The relevant person will have to sign the declaration at section 2 to confirm that 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 agreement.

If you have more than one tenancy with less than five years to run, you will need to complete a supplementary land ownership and control form (ERDP/ES/LOC1) for each additional tenancy. These forms are available from your RDS office (see appendix 6) and are also available for you to download at

1.2.4    Partnerships and trusts

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

  1. All members of the partnership/trust must appoint a signatory to make an application on their behalf and that person must agree to take full responsibility for the agreement.

  2. The signatory must also sign any amendment and claim forms, where these are necessary.

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

  4. The signatory will receive all the payments and must be responsible for paying back any grant if there is a breach of the agreement.

1.2.5    Is common land eligible?

Common land is eligible, but you must be aware that Defra will not become involved in any disputes between commoners. Common land can only be entered into ELS as a separate application covering the whole common. If you farm both common land and other land you should make a separate application covering your other land (e.g. your in-bye land).

All those who hold rights over the common must appoint one signatory to sign the common land application on their behalf. When making the application the signatory must comply with the following conditions:

  1. The signatory must be either the owner of the common, a member of a commoners’ association or, if no such association exists, any other commoner who personally agrees to take responsibility for the ELS commitment and any liabilities for non-compliance.

  2. The signatory must secure the agreement of all known rights holders of the common before making an application.

  3. The application must cover the whole common and must not include any other land (e.g. privately managed in-bye land).

  4. The signatory must sign both the ELS application form itself and a common land supplementary application form (ERDP/ES/COM1) which contains additional declarations. This form must also be signed by the owner of the common or their appointed representative (unless the owner is making the application or there is no owner). The supplementary form is available on request from your RDS office (see appendix 6), and are also available online on the Defra website for you to download at

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

  6. All the payments will be made to the signatory and they must be responsible for paying back any grant if they are found to be in breach of the agreement.

1.2.6    What if others hold rights over my land?

If others hold rights over your land, for example if you have let sporting rights, you should discuss your application with them. It is your responsibility to deliver the options specified in your application and to meet all the scheme conditions.

1.2.7    What if the land I farm is owned by the Crown, a local authority or another Exchequer funded body?

Land which is owned by the Crown, a local authority or another Exchequer funded body, but managed by a tenant, may be entered into ELS, providing the application does not include any environmental management which:

  1. is a condition of that tenancy; or

  2. is already required as part of the conservation responsibilities of the landlord.

In these situations, if you are the tenant, it is your responsibility to ensure that there is no overlap between the obligations you have as part of your tenancy or the obligations of your landlord, and any ELS management requirements.

Land owned and managed directly by the Crown, local authorities or another Exchequer funded body cannot be entered into ELS, as these bodies are expected to manage their land in an environmentally friendly way and are therefore not eligible for payments for basic land management. Management above this basic level may be more appropriate for Higher Level Stewardship (HLS). There are separate requirements for HLS which are described in the HLS handbook.

1.2.8    Do I have another scheme or obligation on my land?

As a general rule, Defra cannot pay you for management you are required to do under an existing scheme or obligation. Specific guidance on what to do if you have another scheme or obligation on your land is provided in section 4 of this handbook. The following table lists the contents of section 4. Please look through this list to check if any of the guidance applies to your land:

Scheme or obligation Section number
Single Payment Scheme (SPS) 4.1
Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) 4.2
Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) 4.3
Organic Aid/Organic Farming Scheme (OAS/OFS) 4.4
Energy Crops Scheme (ECS) 4.5
Farm Woodland Premium Scheme (FWPS), Farm Woodland Scheme (FWS), Woodland Grant Scheme (WGS) and the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS) 4.6
Hill Farm Allowance (HFA) 4.7
Other land management schemes 4.8
Inheritance/Capital gains tax exemption 4.9
Farm assurance schemes and the Pesticide Industry Voluntary Initiative 4.10
Nitrate Vulnerable Zones 4.11
Other obligations 4.12
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