20 November 1998

Northern hill men persuaded to play regeneration game

HILL sheep producers in the north of England, who cover 115,000ha (285,000 acres), could benefit from the £4.5m budget allocated to the Northern Uplands Moorland Regeneration Project.

Funded by MAFF and the EU, the scheme aims to enhance the economic and environmental potential of heather moorland and will provide cash for a range of sheep management projects.

It will cover a wide area including Northumberland, the Yorkshire Dales, Cumbria, Durham and Lancashires Forest of Bowland. Financial assistance will be available to farmers covering a range of objectives:

&#8226 Sheep management – preparation of a flock health plan, pregnancy scanning, feeding advice, dipping, vaccines and blood sampling for ticks and louping ill.

&#8226 Sheep grazing control – fencing, walling, feeding equipment and shepherding.

&#8226 Livestock housing.

&#8226 Access roads.

&#8226 Bracken control.

&#8226 Heather re-seeding.

The project will also finance grouse management including: Equipment for keepers, grouse butt construction, medicated grit to control strongylosis or strongylosis vaccines, erosion control, wetland management and keepering management.

Saya Harvey, project manager based at ADAS Redesdale in Northumberland, says other items may also be eligible for financial assistance when considered relevant to project aims.

"The scheme will take a new approach to moorland management and nature conservation and will have real benefits for landlords, farmers and shooting tenants.

"ADAS research has proved that environmental and economic benefits can be achieved simultaneously in northern uplands."

The project is led by the Moorland Association based in North Yorks and managed by ADAS. Five project officers will help to establish development groups to review marketing and diversification opportunities, working alongside conservation staff from English Nature.

"Careful shepherding, rotating feeding sites and removal of sheep by housing during winter can minimise the negative impact of sheep grazing on moorland.

"Free vet advice and financial support for facilities and medicines will ensure changes in sheep husbandry do not penalise farmers financially."

Project officers will help draw up a management plan between all parties involved within an area of moorland. This will be aimed at increasing financial returns from agricultural and sporting enterprises.

Applicants must either own or occupy moorland that is located in an Objective 5b Area. It is not necessary for all farmers grazing a moorland to participate in the scheme, but before the plan is approved it must be agreed by landowners, shooting interests and farmers.

Project officers will collect the initial information concerning farming and moorland management and assist in preparing a plan for which financial assistance is sought. When a plan is approved an offer of assistance will be made to each of the parties involved.

For example, a livestock building may be considered a crucial component of the plan and may attract a 50% grant, bracken control may be considered less important and warrant 30%.

Approved plans will require an agreement for implementation over 10 years. All capital work must be completed and invoices submitted by June 30, 2001. Work cannot be started on anything for which grant has been applied until the plan is approved.