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Rural Affairs

England Rural Development Programme logo

Environmental Stewardship

Quick links
New Rural Development Programme 2007 and Cross Compliance

Environmental Stewardship promotional booklet [PDF] (1.6 MB)

Forms to download

Agri-environment Matters Newsletter

Conservation Advice (ADAS)

Grass seed crops and grass margins [Click to download Adobe Acrobat Reader]

Latest news

Update - Entry Level Stewardship (ELS)
The EU Commission decision formally approving the Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013 was issued on 7 December 2007.

Formal approval for the Programme makes it possible to move to full implementation.

Natural England is in the process of contacting all those who have entered provisional Environmental Stewardship agreements since January 2007 with details of what will happen to these agreements now. Further details about Environmental Stewardship in the 2007-2013 Programme can be found here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/erdp/rdp07_13/qa.htm.

Environmental Stewardship agreements entered into before 1 January 2007 will not be affected by these discussions.

Anyone who has entered into an Environmental Stewardship agreement since 1 January 2007 will be eligible for payment for work they have undertaken so far under the provisional agreement.

New Rural Development Programme 2007 and Cross Compliance - important news for applicants.

Natural England delivers the Government's programme of financial incentives (including Environmental Stewardship) to farmers and land managers for the protection and enhancement of the natural environment.


What is Environmental Stewardship?

Environmental Stewardship is a new agri-environment scheme which provides funding to farmers and other land managers in England who deliver effective environmental management on their land.

MeadowsThe scheme is intended to build on the recognised success of the Environmental Sensitive Areas scheme and the countryside Stewardship Scheme. Its primary objectives are to:

  • Conserve wildlife (biodiversity)
  • Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character
  • Protect the historic environment and natural resources
  • Promote public access and understanding of the countryside
  • Natural resource protection

Within the primary objectives it also has the secondary objectives of:

  • Genetic conservation
  • Flood management

Environmental stewardship has three elements:

Entry Level Stewardship (ELS)
  • Open to all farmers and landowners.
  • Simple and effective land management.
Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS)
  • Organic strand of ELS.
  • Open to all farmers not receiving Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) aid.
Higher Level Stewardship (HLS)
  • Targeted environmental management.
  • Capital work plans

What are the benefits?

ELS provides a straightforward approach to supporting the good stewardship of the countryside. OELS takes a similar approach, but is geared to organic and organic/conventional mixed farming systems. HLS is designed to build on ELS and OELS to form a comprehensive agreement that achieves a wide-range of environmental benefits across the whole farm. HLS concentrates on the more complex types of management where land managers need advice and support and where agreements will be tailored to local circumstances. ELS and OELS go beyond what will be required under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) cross compliance conditions. Entering into an Environmental Stewardship agreement will not remove any cross compliance obligations.

ES Review of Progress

A Defra led Review of Progress of Environmental Stewardship, run jointly with Natural England (NE), was launched in May 2007 to look at progress of the scheme. The final report [PDF] (907 KB) was published in May 2008

How do I apply?

Information on how to apply is available in the handbooks that support Environmental Stewardship. There are separate handbooks for each element of the scheme, and an additional handbook for the Farm Environment Plans required for Higher Level Stewardship.

Agreement start dates

Under ELS and OELS agreements will commence on the first day of each month, and within 3 months of receipt of a valid application.  So, for example, applications received during July will be formally issued an agreement on 1 October.  The earliest start date will be given unless a specific request for a later start date is made.

For HLS, agreement start dates commence quarterly and because of the more complex requirements of the scheme, applications are subject to a 3 month deadline prior to each quarterly start date.

Registering your land

Registering your land on the Rural Land Register for Environmental Stewardship (ES) applications.

As stated in the scheme handbooks only land that is recorded on the Rural Land Register can be entered into Environmental Stewardship.

New land registration requests and amendments to existing registered land should be referred to the Rural Payment Agency. Once the land is registered, an application for ES can be made.

If only small areas of your holding are unregistered you may wish to enter the bulk of your land now. Please contact your regional Natural England Customer Service Unit[Click to download Adobe Acrobat Reader][46 KB] for details of other options that may be open to you.

Page last modified: 4 July, 2008
Page published: 3 March, 2005

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs