19 August 1997

OK to tougher ESA

By Robert Davies

MORE than 300 Gwynedd farmers have accepted the tougher regulations of the revised Llyn Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme.

Another 200 are still completing their previous five-year agreements and annual payments on the 16,000ha (39,520 acres) contracted now amount to £730,000/year.

Although some farmers are waiting for mapping and administration to be completed, there is no waiting list for new applicants, and money is available.

There has been a sea change in farmers attitudes to environmental protection, said Emyr Jones, Farming and Rural Conservation Agency project manager for the Llyn ESA. Despite a switch of emphasis from simple protection of important environmental features to positive management, farmers were increasingly keen to get involved.

The new scheme was more demanding, but it included many attractive new elements.

The package was a practical way of protecting farm incomes while defending sensitive habitats and valuable landscape features from the effects of intensified production, Mr Jones said.

The new all-farm 10-year agreements paid £25/ha/year (£10/acre/year) for the first 20ha, £17/ha (£6.89/acre) for the next 30ha, and £10/ha (£4/acre) for all land over 50ha. To get the money farmers must fulfil the schemes five requirements.

"There is a payment of £5.50/m for restoring hedgerows or earth banks, and £17.00/m for stone walls and the stone-faced earth banks that are typical of this area," Mr Jones said. "Approved applications include 76km of hedgerows and 28km of stone walls. On this farm work on 434m of hedges, and 881m of walls and banks will bring in more than £17,400 in the first five years.

"Grants are available to cover up to 60% of the cost of renovating traditional stone buildings, 80% of the cost of regenerating heather, and 50% of bracken eradication charges."

Mr Jones said there were also payments for following management prescriptions on a range of important features such as unimproved rough grazings, wetlands, hay meadows and heather land.

"There is strong farmer interest within all six Welsh ESAs and committed expenditure is getting close to the £5m/year ceiling."

Details of how the planned new all-Wales, integrated agri-environment scheme would work should be announced soon. He hoped that it would incorporate the best elements of the ESA and Tir Cymen land stewardship schemes.

Keen demand would mean that the positive environmental benefits of applications would be very carefully scrutinised to ensure that funds were used in a cost effective way.

REVISED LLYN ESA

How to qualify:

&#8226 Maintain existing field boundaries.

&#8226 Avoid fertilising or spraying2m wide headland strips.

&#8226 Protect lakes, ponds, streams, archaeological and historic features, scrub and broad-leaved trees, and traditional farm buildings.

&#8226 Do not increase stockingrates without permission.

&#8226 Do not remove boulders from fields and rock outcrops.