29 January 1999

How to increase chance of stewardship success

WITH Countryside Steward-ship Schemes across the country oversubscribed by up to 50%, it is important farmers submit high quality applications well before the closing date of May 31.

That was the message to advisers last week at a CSS information day at Crewe, organised by the Farming and Rural Conservation Agencys North Mercia stewardship team.

Explaining how FRCA assesses each application, Robin Gilbert outlined a scoring system where applications with the most points are likely to receive a share of the limited grant funds. He said: "Applications will score well if they are from farms within a county target area and meet the set objectives of that area."

A list of target areas and what MAFF wishes to achieve in them is produced each year and he urged all applicants to obtain a copy covering their county from the MAFF Regional Service Centre.

He stressed that applications from outside target areas would not be discounted. But they were most likely to be successful if they covered large areas and/or created long term benefits for wildlife, the landscape, historic features and people. It was especially helpful if they are supported by local organisations.

North Mercia scheme co-ordinator Sam Alston emphasised the importance of applying early and urged all applicants to contact a FRCA stewardship project officer beforehand. "The sooner farmers get in touch with us the more help we can give.

"All applications should be submitted with a clearly annotated map for which guidelines can be obtained from FRCA," said Mr Alston. "More complicated applications should include a management plan."

He reminded farmers that successful applications could receive a payment of £120 if professional advice had been used. A further £300 is available to cover professional fees in producing a management plan. &#42

CSS MANAGEMENT PLANS

These should include:

&#8226 Fully annotated maps, including location of all works.

&#8226 A table of works to be undertaken, including location, size/amount, timing and specific details.

&#8226 Existing site description, land use, history.

&#8226 Current nature conservation interests, including species lists, habitats.

&#8226 A landscape assessment.

&#8226 Archaeological/historical assessment.

&#8226 Existing and/or potential public enjoyment opportunities.

PREPARING APPLICATION

&#8226 Contact a scheme project officer before applying.

&#8226 Be sure to address the schemes objectives.

&#8226 Refer to county target areas and objectives.

&#8226 Apply well before May 31 deadline.