Couple left fuming over HLS application

A Cornish farming couple are furious at having to involve the media and farming minister Jim Paice to get their Higher Level Stewardship agreement approved.

Despite having received approval by the Natural England office in Truro on the deadline of 31 May, to start the agreement on 1 June, Steve and Bridget Clamp were then told the Newcastle office had not approved it by the deadline. The agreement would therefore not start until 1 July, meaning their payment would be delayed until autumn 2012.

To prepare for the scheme, the Clamps had sold most of their existing cattle, to replace with the required Red Ruby Devon stock. “I doubt we could have kept the place running if we didn’t get the money until next autumn,” said Mr Clamp. “It’s been an absolute nightmare.”

After hearing of the delay, the couple contacted Farmers Weekly and informed Natural England that they would be raising the issue with Jim Paice at the Royal Cornwall Show. “By 9am the next day we got a call saying, miraculously, that they had overturned it and we could start on 1 June.

“I can only assume it’s because we were kicking up so much fuss. But if they could accept it then, why couldn’t they accept it when we originally appealed? There are other people round here who are having similar problems, and because Natural England hasn’t got enough money it’s only going to get worse. It seems that he who makes the most noise gets the most action, but it should not have to be that way.”

A spokeswoman for Natural England said a mistake had been made, but it had now been rectified.