Natural England
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Changes to Environmental Stewardship schemes and the ELS application process

Due to the timing of new mapping data from the Rural Land Register (RLR) and enhancements to Environmental Stewardship, Natural England will need to make short-term changes to the processing of new ELS agreements.

Natural England is minimising the impact of these changes on our customers, but over the Christmas and New Year period Natural England’s ELS Online system will be taken offline and application packs for ELS (including Organic ELS) will not be issued. HLS will be unaffected.

The temporary suspension of ELS Online and application packs will run from December 4th 2009 to late January 2010, although farmers will still be able to join ELS by returning a valid paper application to Natural England before Christmas. Farmers who cannot do this will be able to see the scheme changes in new handbooks available online from early December.

ELS Online and ELS application packs will be made available again at the end of January. Any applications received in February will be given a March 1st start date.

Robin Tucker, Natural England’s Executive Director for National Delivery, said: “We do not undertake such major changes lightly, and we have taken steps to minimise the impact on farmers. We will keep farmers and advisers well informed and supported through this period of change. We’re keen to maintain our excellent reputation for delivery, with 100% of applications processed within target times and 96% of payments made within a month.”

Andrea Graham, Countryside Adviser for the National Farmers’ Union, said: “From early December the new handbooks will be made available online so it will be possible for our members to see the new options that will be available in the schemes from February 1 onwards.”

Customers can view a summary of the changes to Environmental Stewardship at

Further advice is available from Natural England on the following phone numbers 0300 060 1482 or 0300 060 1638.

Notes to editors:

1. The 3rd edition of the ES handbook will be published online in early December. It will be available in print from February 1st.

2. Uplands ELS will replace the Hill Farm Allowance, the final payments of which are due to take place next year. It is a new strand of Entry Level Stewardship and provides higher value payments to farmers with land in the Severely Disadvantaged Areas (SDA) in recognition of the challenges involved in managing the large farms typically found in this area. New options have been included that have been designed specifically to benefit the uplands and compliment farming systems in these areas.

About Natural England

Natural England is the government’s independent advisor 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 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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