ARCHIVE: England Rural Development Programme

The Countryside Stewardship Scheme

The Countryside Stewardship Scheme is a grant scheme operating throughout England outside Environmentally Sensitive Areas. Its aims are to:

  • sustain the beauty and diversity of the landscape
  • improve and extend wildlife habitats
  • conserve archaeological sites and historic features
  • restore neglected land or features
  • create new habitats and landscapes; and
  • improve opportunities for people to enjoy the countryside.

Many landscapes and features are eligible for grants. These include: chalk and limestone grassland; lowland heath; waterside land; coastal land; upland; old meadows and pastures; historic features (such as orchards, parkland, buildings); field margins; field boundaries (stone walls, hedges and ditches); community forest and countryside around towns. Payments are also available for new permissive access.

Countryside Stewardship is a voluntary scheme and is available to farmers and non-farming land owners and managers (including voluntary bodies, local authorities and community groups) who enter 10 year agreements, under which they manage land in an environmentally beneficial way in return for annual payments. Grants are also available towards capital works such as hedge coppicing and repairing dry stone walls. Land management payments are made annually and capital payments on completion of the work. Payment rates are reviewed every three years.

Payments vary according to the land management option and can range between 4 and 525 per hectare.

Countryside Stewardship is a discretionary scheme and only applications that offer good value for money will be accepted. Value for money will be judged against whether an application meets the national and local objectives for Stewardship (which are explained in detail in the scheme literature) and take into account benefits for wildlife, landscape and history and opportunities for people to enjoy the results. Applications can be made at any time but 31 May is the closing date for consideration of applications for that year.

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