Natural England
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Agents invited to HLS Farm Environment Plan clinics

For the first time, Natural England is running a full series of ‘clinics’ for land agents to discuss Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Farm Environment Plan (FEP) proposals.

The clinics will run during September and are designed to discuss the ‘pipeline’ list of holdings provisionally identified by Natural England as having the potential to receive Higher Level Stewardship funding in 2012/13. Agents are being invited to submit additional proposals for consideration at the clinics.

The new pipeline clinics are the result of discussions and pilots with farming organisations including NFU, CLA, FWAG and CAAV to agree a method for making the best use of HLS.

HLS provides support for the best environmental land management on farms in England and Farm Environment Plans - which involve the detailed assessment of the environment on the farm - are a key part of HLS agreements. An important element of the clinics will be deciding how FEPs will be completed.

Each session will also provide an opportunity to discuss the new 3-Tier HLS process, that was introduced on 1st July to help speed up application preparation and processing times. Each HLS application is now managed by one of three routes - either ‘Fast-track’, ‘Standard’ or ‘Complex’ - to provide the most appropriate level of advice and support according to the complexity of an application. The Fast-track process is designed for farms where environmental features are already well known and the management fully understood - such as some smaller farm holdings with Sites of Special Scientific Interest. In these cases, the FEP will be produced in-house by Natural England and the RDPE funds freed up will enable more HLS agreements to be offered.

Ian Fugler, Director of Land Management for Natural England said: ‘‘The HLS clinics we are running in September are a great opportunity for agents to get involved in the HLS application pipeline for the next financial year. The local knowledge of the agents and our Land Management Advisers will help identify which holdings have the potential to secure the greatest benefits for the environment through HLS. This will also benefit farmers in providing certainty over their eligibility for HLS and reduce unnecessary paperwork and time taken to process applications.’’

For further information on the pipeline clinics or to register interest in attending one of the sessions, agents are asked to contact their local Natural England adviser, call 0300 060 0011 or email

Notes to Editors:

For further information (media enquiries only), please contact: Christine White, Natural England press office on 0300 0601302 or 07900 608017.

For out of hours media queries please call the duty press officer on 07970 098005

For further information about Natural England please visit:

Additional notes:

1. Pipeline clinics will be held at office locations across the country between 5th and 23rd September 2011.

2. Agents are currently being contacted with further information and asked to submit proposals for consideration at the clinics on behalf of their clients. Agents will be required to complete an HLS Pipeline Clinic Authorization Form: (107kb)pdf document signed by their client and a Holding Details Form: (61kb)excel spreadsheet giving details of the holding and associated interest features, for discussion at the clinic.

3. The pipeline of HLS applications for 2012/13 will be finalised during October and agents and farmers will receive confirmation of the decision soon after.

4. All new HLS applications will be assigned by Natural England to one of three tiers depending on the complexity of a holding.  The three tiers are:

  • Fast track – FEP produced in-house by Natural England and suitable for holdings where only one adviser visit is required.

  • Standard – FEP produced by external FEP surveyors and/or third party agents and suitable for all other holdings and where a maximum of two visits by a Natural England adviser is required.

  • Complex – FEP produced by external FEP surveyors and/or third party agents and suitable for the most complex holdings. Complex cases may, due to their nature, require up to four adviser visits. 

5. The changes will deliver benefits to potential applicants and agents/FEP surveyors, including:

  • Shorter turnaround times for applications

  • No FEP costs for Fast-track customers

  • Applicants get the most appropriate level of advice

  • Detailed advice provided to applicant’s agents through individual contact with Natural England advisers.

6. Anyone who would like further information about the 3-Tier HLS system can email their queries to:

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 Environmental Stewardship and other 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. 


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