All you need to know… about Higher Level Stewardship

The aim of Higher Level Stewardship is for farmers to undertake environmental management schemes which offer “significant benefits” to high-priority areas.

Its primary objectives are:

  • Wildlife conservation
  • Maintenance and enhancement of landscape quality and character
  • Natural resource protection
  • Protection of the historic environment
  • Promotion of public access and understanding of the countryside


Usually combined with ELS or OELS options, HLS involves more complex environmental management which require advice and support from Rural Development Advisors.

A wide range of management options are available, including creation of wood pasture, maintaining moorland and offering education access to farmland.

Applications for entering HLS are detailed and include preparing a Farm Environmental Plan, which assesses the environmental value of farmland and its potential to deliver additional environmental benefits.

If you are considering applying for HLS, you should note the application process has changed. From 1 April 2007 farmers need to apply for a pre-Farm Environmental Plan consultation from Natural England. The consultaton gives prospective applicants a realistic assement of whether they would be succesful in their HLS application before the commit to the exopense of comissioning a Farm Environmental Plan.  

Unlike ELS and OELS, entry into the shceme is discretionary. Applications are assessed individually to consider how the plans meets the environmental priorities identified in the area.

Once a successful application has been made ten-year agreements are drawn up, with payments made every six months. The size of payments depend on the type of work entered into the scheme.

For more information entering the Higher Level Scheme, read Defra’s HLS booklet.

Fwi Links:

Back to the Environmental Stewardship homepage
All you need to know… about Entry Level Stewardship
All you need to know… about Organic Entry Level Stewardship

Still have questions about environmental stewardship? Then visit the FWi forums – we have teamed up with ADAS so you can get answers to any query or problem you have with Environmental Stewardship schemes.