Natural England
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ELS applications resume after improvements are completed ahead of schedule

Natural England is pleased to announce that farmers can now resume applying to join Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) after the applications system was successfully upgraded ahead of schedule.

Both ELS Online - the quickest and most efficient way of applying - and ELS application packs are now available following the recent suspension to carry out updates and improvements to the on-line application system. Farmers are encouraged to apply once they receive their updated RLR maps.

Robin Tucker, Natural England’s Executive Director for National Delivery, said: “We would like to thank farmers for their patience and understanding during recent weeks. We’ve worked hard to carry out the improvements in as short a period as possible and have finished ahead of time. Farmers and land managers now have access to a faster, clearer applications process based on enhanced software and the latest maps from the Rural Payments Agency. By making it easier for farmers to apply, we want to support the efforts they are making through ELS and help ensure the success of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.”

The improved ELS Online system is being introduced at an important time, with 12,000 ELS agreements coming up for renewal this year. Natural England and the CFE are looking to ensure that it is as easy as possible for existing agreement holders to renew and for new entrants to enter ELS schemes. ELS Online is a vital tool in achieving this and Natural England is encouraging all farmers to use it for their application and to benefit from the extra functionality it provides. The system allows applicants to calculate points as features and options are added, saving information as they go. It also has a measuring tool which removes the need to physically measure boundary features.

In addition to upgrading the on-line application system, Natural England has significantly stepped up the level of ELS training and information in order to help farmers apply for ELS and choose the best options for their farm. Workshops, events and one-to-one farm visits are all now available. The advice ranges from how to improve your farm for birds and wildlife to protecting soil, water and historical features, whilst gaining the financial benefits of ELS. It will also explain the new and revised options in ELS which have been developed to meet farmers’ needs and deliver better environmental results.

Andrea Graham, NFU Countryside Adviser, said: "We're pleased to see that ELS is now up and running and available to our members again. 2010 will be a crucial year for the success of ELS with the first group of agreements facing renewal deadlines by this summer. And importantly it will be vital for the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, where ELS is one of the main ways to participate.

“The NFU hopes that both the new options and also the improved on-line facility will help to smooth the application process for those renewing their agreements or considering ELS for the first time."

Farmers who submit a valid, accurate application before February 17 will be given a start date of March 1. Some are not due to receive their confirmatory maps from RPA until February and they are advised to wait until these have arrived before applying. During February, RPA aims to send the remaining confirmatory maps to all farmers who requested changes to their maps before mid-January.

For further information on the applications process and events in your area please contact your local Natural England office or visit the Environmental Stewardship section of the website.

Notes to editors:

The 3rd Edition Environmental Stewardship Handbooks for Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) are now available on the Natural England website and from our local offices. They include new and revised options for farmers and land managers and details of the new Uplands strand of ELS and OELS. The new handbooks become operational, as the legal basis for ES agreements, from 1 February 2010.

About Natural England

Natural England is the government’s independent adviser on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.

  • We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.

  • We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Marine Conservation Zones, and advising widely on their conservation.

  • We run England’s Environmental Stewardship green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.

  • We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.

  • We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.

For further information contact:
Graham Tibbetts in the National Press Office on 0845 603 9953, or out of hours 07810 636344.

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