ARCHIVE: Entry Level Stewardship Handbook 2005 (PB10355)

Buffer strips have a wide range of potential benefits, such as: creating new habitat for small mammals, invertebrates and birds; protecting habitats from sprays, fertiliser and cultivation; protecting archaeological or historic features from damage by mechanical operations; stabilising banks, protecting water courses and reducing diffuse pollution.

Where to locate buffer strips

Choose the width that is most suitable for you and your machinery and use these options alongside or adjoining environmental features (e.g. ponds, ditches, riverbanks, hedges, stone walls). Buffer strips offer particular benefit to wildlife if placed adjacent to watercourses, hedgerows, stone walls and remnant boundary treelines. Generally speaking, the wider the buffer strip, the greater the protection and wildlife habitat that will be provided.

English Nature

Defra (David Smallshire)
Use buffer strips (as wide as possible) to protect sensitive features such as wetlands and woodland from fertilisers and pesticides

Buffer strip options in ELS must not overlap with:

  1. The Single Payment Scheme cross compliance requirement not to cultivate land within 2 m of the centre of a hedgerow or watercourse (and within 1 m of the top of the bank of a watercourse).
  2. Any other buffer strips or uncultivated strips required under other ELS options, such as ELS options for field boundaries, trees and woodland.
  3. Public Rights of Way (e.g. footpaths or bridleways) along field edges.

You must start your ELS buffer strip options where your other uncultivated land ends (i.e. 2 m from the centre of a hedge or ditch, and at least 1 m from the top of a ditch bank).

Buffer strip options EE1, EE2 and EE3 must not run alongside any 6-10 m set-aside strips established under your Single Payment Scheme entitlement. This rule does not apply to set-aside strips wider than 10 m, but the ELS buffer strips must be located between the set-aside strip and the environmental feature being buffered.

You may establish 2 or 4 m ELS buffer strip options (EE1 and EE2) alongside 2 m Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) grass margins, but you must not establish any ELS buffer strip options alongside 6 m CSS grass margins.

If you are locating your ELS buffer strip next to a hedge which extends further than 2 m from the centre line, it is acceptable for part of your ELS buffer strip to be covered by hedge, provided the land would otherwise be eligible as a buffer strip.

Buffer strips that have already been established are eligible if their management is not being paid for under another scheme, and they are not under permanent set-aside. However, a buffer strip must be located on land which could, in practice, be cultivated (e.g. very steeply banked strips alongside boundaries are not eligible).

Remember: You should not apply manures within 10 m of a watercourse (as advised in the Water Code, Defra publications, PB 0587) and, when spraying pesticides adjacent to buffer strips, you must still keep to the pesticide regulations in order to control drift.

How to record buffer strip measurements

On your field data sheet (annex 2 of your application form), you must enter the amount of each buffer strip option as an area measurement in hectares for each field. This will give you a figure which you will need to complete your Single Payment Scheme (SPS) return (see section 4.1.3). It will also help you to work out the remaining field area available for other uses e.g. cropping, other ELS options or set-aside.

For each buffer strip measure the length of the option in metres, and convert this to hectares (to the nearest 0.01 ha (100 m2)). See section 2.3.4, for a worked example of the conversion to hectares.

You may find it helpful to use the worksheet provided at appendix 3 to help you to calculate the area of buffer strip options in each field.

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