4 June 1999

Failed Habitat Scheme ends

THE NFU says it has reservations about government plans to end the Habitat Scheme by integrating its more successful elements into the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

MAFF this week announced it would be consulting on proposals to bring the scheme, which is aimed at creating or enhancing habitats by taking land out of production, to an end.

"The Habitat Scheme hasnt been terribly popular," said Andrew Clark, NFU countryside and forestry adviser. And government had amended the options offered under stewardship to allow it to be phased out.

"But although farmers may be eligible to apply they may not be accepted." The popularity of the scheme, coupled with a lack of funds, already meant that half of stewardship applications were turned down, he explained.

Fewer than 450 farmers joined the Habitat Scheme since it began in May 1994. Existing agreements, some of which run for 20 years, will be honoured. &#42