Conservation margin with sign warning to keep off© Tim Scrivener

Natural England has confirmed it only received 2,314 mid-tier applications to the Countryside Stewardship scheme, but claims it is happy with the level of interest shown.

Farm leaders warned last week that many farmers had been left feeling disillusioned with the new scheme, because it was hard to put a claim together and some of the rules were too stringent.

They warned that numbers of applications would be lower than anticipated, which could have a detrimental effect on the countryside. 

See also: Rule shake-up for Countryside Stewardship as deadline looms

But a spokeswoman for Natural England said the conservation body was pleased with both the quality and quantity of the mid-tier applications received.

“We are pleased, as this is a brand new scheme. The applications submitted include high quality ones, which will do the most to improve water quality and the farmed environment”
Natural England

“We are pleased, as this is a brand new scheme.

“The applications submitted include high quality ones, which will do the most to improve water quality and the farmed environment.”

Natural England will now assess the applications to see how many of them will qualify for funding.

Successful applicants will be offered an agreement with a start date of 1 January 2016. 

Natural England is also reminding farmers than the deadline for higher tier applications is 31 October.