Tips on completing a Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier application

With only three weeks until the Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier 2018 application deadline, Alice De Soer from the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) gives some key pointers for applicants.

The application submission deadline has been extended for 2018 from 31 July to 31 August. However, if you did not request an application pack by 31 May you cannot apply this year.

Completed paper applications (and online Arable Wildlife Offer applications), together with all required supporting evidence, must be submitted to the relevant Natural England (NE) office for your county by 31 August. If successful, agreements will start from 1 January 2019.

Where to find guidance on applying

All the guidance is available online at www.gov.uk (search “Mid-Tier: Countryside Stewardship”). This includes the Mid-Tier and Wildlife Offers manual; Mid-Tier options, supplements and capital items; and a guide to completing the application form.

See also: Key cross-compliance and greening dates by region

There’s also a CS grant finder which explains the rules for each of the options, supplements and capital items and gives advice on how to carry them out.

Check digital maps online

All the land parcels included in a Mid-Tier application must be registered with the RPA, including non-agricultural areas, such as farmyards. Check that your land is shown correctly on your digital maps (sign-in at www.gov.uk/rural-payments, from “Business overview”, click “Land” and “View land”).

Check that your land is linked to your Single Business Identifier (SBI) and that the land cover (permanent grassland, arable, permanent crops or non-agricultural area) and boundaries are mapped correctly.

Also, check the hedges information on your digital maps if you’re using BE3 (management of hedgerows), BN5 (hedgerow laying) or BN6 (hedgerow coppicing) – only these three options are checked by NE against the mapped hedges information.

If anything needs to be updated on your maps, submit a form RLE1 to the RPA immediately (available at www.gov.uk – search “RLE1”).

On the RLE1 front page, put a cross in the Rural Development Programme scheme box and write “RLE1 required to support 2018 Countryside Stewardship application”. Don’t wait to submit your Mid-Tier application until the RPA updates your digital maps – just ensure an RLE1 form is submitted immediately.

Choosing options

To help identify the priority options best suited to your farm and location, sign in to the Rural Payments service (www.gov.uk/rural-payments) and use the Countryside Stewardship Options Finder Tool (from “Business overview”, click on “Countryside Stewardship”). Applications are scored, so choosing high priority options for your location will improve your score.

There are 18 Mid-Tier options that can no longer overlap with Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) declared on your BPS 2019 application.

These options can be located in the same land parcel as an EFA, but cannot overlap. More information on the 18 options affected can be found at www.gov.uk – search “Mid-Tier: Countryside Stewardship”. BE3 (management of hedgerows) is not one of the options affected.

Complete the application maps

A completed Farm Environment Record (FER) map and Options map must be submitted with the Mid-Tier application. Include all hedgerow trees on the FER map and use the correct colour codes for hedges (as shown on the map legend). All non-rotational options and capital items should be included on the Options map.

Submit required evidence

Check the “keeping records” section of the options descriptions. If required evidence is not submitted with your application by 31 August 2018, Natural England could remove the option or reject the application.

If permanent grassland options GS2, GS5 or GS6 are being used, a completed “Assessment of eligibility for permanent grassland options” form must be sent with your application (on www.gov.uk, search “permanent grassland”).

Check and sign the application

Carefully check the application to ensure you’ve included your SBI and answered all the questions.

Paper application forms must be signed by someone with Countryside Stewardship (Applications) “submit” permission on the Rural Payments service (sign-in at www.gov.uk/rural-payments, from “Business overview” click “Give access to this business”). This also applies for the Online Arable Wildlife Offer. Submit the application by 31 August 2018.

In summary

  • Use the Options Finder Tool on the Rural Payments service
  • Check evidence requirements
  • Check land is correct on the digital maps – where necessary, submit an RLE1 form
  • Submit the application and supporting evidence by 31 August 2018