RPA leaflets© Tim Scrivener

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has opened six drop-in centres across England which farmers and landowners can access to submit their 2018 Basic Payment claims.

The RPA revealed it opened drop-in centres at six “main sites” on Monday (23 April).

The centres – at Carlisle, Reading, Exeter, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Workington and York – will be open from Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays).

See also: Essential tips for BPS 2018 claims

On Tuesday 15 May – the deadline to submit claims before deductions can be imposed – the centres will be open until 10pm.

The RPA said it will “accept fully completed BPS application forms and supporting documents, and provide receipts for them”.

A spokesman said: “Drop-in centres at the RPA’s main sites opened on 23 April 2018 and close on 15 May. Help and support in applying for BPS 2018 is also available through our online guidance, ‘how to’ videos, or at the end of the phone.

“Farmers and agents can find step-by-step guides on Gov.Uk on transferring land, transferring entitlements and a general overview of how to apply online.”

However, the RPA urged farmers to read the guidance in full and call the helpline on 03000 200 301 if they have an issue. “We don’t want people making unnecessary journeys if something can be worked out simply on the phone,” added the spokesman.

One week early

The RPA has decided to open the centres a week early after calls from farmers and lobbying from farm organisations, including the CLA and NFU. It had intended to open the centres from 1-15 May.

In previous years, the RPA had opened as many as 50 drop-in centres across England to enable farmers to submit their claims forms by hand and receive any advice. However, the agency wants as many landowners and farmers as possible to submit their BPS 2018 claims online.

The centres are placed across a number of regions of England. But farmers in East Anglia will face a lengthy return trip if they wish to submit their claims by hand.

CLA deputy president Mark Bridgeman said: “The CLA has been calling on the RPA to open up its drop-in centres as soon as possible during April to avoid further delays to the already slow claim process, so this is a great result for farmers and their agents.

“It is so important to have these centres open because many documents for BPS claims cannot be submitted online.

“Having access to this face-to-face service is a crucial part of helping the process to run smoothly and not result in delays to payments.”