Farmers and landowners have been given more time to submit “expressions of interest” for a higher tier Countryside Stewardship agreement.
The deadline for “expressions of interest” forms to be received by Natural England has been extended from 30 June to 15 July.
Expression of Interest (EoI) forms (PDF) received by 15 July will be appraised and evaluated for the environmental efforts they offer.
The applications will be assessed and those farmers that offer best environmental value will be offered support to develop their applications.
The Higher Tier of the Countryside Stewardship scheme is replacing its current equivalent – the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme – in England.
Farmers and landowners, including those with expiring HLS agreements, must submit an EoI form by 15 July. EoIs that arrive after this date will not be considered.
Applicants who wish to bring woodlands into Higher Tier management need to use the Higher Tier application form for woodland options and items. The form will be available shortly from the Countryside Stewardship pages.
The deadline for draft woodland applications is 31 July 2015.
Ali Gray, an associate partner in the farming department based at Strutt & Parker’s Morpeth office, said he believed the deadline had been extended due to the delayed application window for the Basic Payment Scheme, which was pushed back a month until 15 June.
“I suspect that they have realised what a short window it was to turn around, particularly where agents like myself are involved,” said Mr Gray.
“We were totally committed to getting all the Basic Payment Scheme forms in as well as the Environmental Stewardship Forms by the 15 June Deadline, to then meet a subsequent 30 June Deadline for Higher Tier EoI was a tall order.”
Although the Countryside Stewardship forms were “not too onerous to fill”, they require a “good level of research and understanding of the holding and options available” before committing interest on the form, he added.