Farmers locked out of new environmental grants

Grants for farmers to carry our valuable environmental work are proving less accessible than anticipated.

Barley field, Normanton. Picture: Michiko Smith

Paul Dennison, farm business consultant at property consultancy Strutt & Parker, said that while the new Hedgerow and Boundaries Grant Scheme was welcome as it gives an opportunity for farmers and landowners to access funding for environmental gain, many were finding that they are in fact ineligible.

Mr Dennison, who is based at the firm’s Northallerton office, said: “The eligibility criteria for the hedgerow and boundaries scheme is more limited than people realise.

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“Many farmers are finding they are ineligible for grant funding because they already have another agri-environment scheme agreement in place.

“It excludes anyone who has an Environmental Stewardship, multi-year Countryside Stewardship or English Woodland Grant Scheme agreement on 1 July 2016.

“This means there are thousands of people with existing Entry Level Scheme (ELS) or Higher Level Scheme (HLS) agreements who will find they are not eligible. This is disappointing for them and does feel like a step backwards.”

The Hedgerow and Boundaries Grant Scheme, which is open for applications until April 30, is a standalone capital grant under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

The new scheme, which offers farmers up to £5,000 to restore boundary features, such as hedges, stone walls and earth banks, opened for applications at the start of last month.

The Forestry Commission’s woodland creation grant is also open for initial applications of up to £6,800 per hectare to plant trees.