Woman sitting at desk in front of computer© Tim Scrivener

A landowners’ organisation is urging the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to open drop-in centres immediately to help farmers submitting their single farm payment applications.

Proactive land change detection and inaccurate hedge mapping data has resulted in many more farmers and agents needing to submit RLE1 forms than in previous years.

The problem has been further compounded by the late opening of the application window.

See also: Essential tips for BPS 2018 claims

But this year, the RPA has decided to reduce the availability of drop-in centres where farmers can take important supporting documents for their 2018 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims.

These are offices where RPA staff are working, but are not prepared to receive the papers.

CLA deputy president Mark Bridgeman said: “The drop-in centres are so important for farmers and their agents because some 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.

“Reducing the availability of these centres will place greater pressure on RPA staff to complete BPS administration in the lead-up to the 15 May deadline and could mean farmers are wasting time waiting around in unnecessary queues once the centres are officially open in May for the final two weeks of the process.

“We have been calling on the RPA to open up the centres as soon as possible during April to avoid further delays to the already slow claim process.”

RPA: 23,000 applications submitted

In response, a spokeswoman said the RPA opened drop-in centres at six main sites across England on Monday (23 April). These include: Carlisle, Exeter, Newcastle upon Tyne, Workington, Reading and York.

The centres will accept fully completed BPS application forms and supporting documents, and provide receipts for them.

They will remain open until 10pm on Tuesday 15 May. Opening times are Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays). 

The RPA said more than 23,000 2018 BPS applications had been submitted since the application window opened in March. A record 90% of the applications made so far have been online, as farmers continue to make the switch from paper forms.

The application deadline to submit BPS claims is midnight on 15 May 2018. Late applications will be accepted until 9 June, but will incur a penalty.