The Countryside Stewardship (CS) facilitation fund has just opened for business. Based on my experience of running an Objective 5b scheme in the Forest of Bowland in the late 1990s, I am a keen supporter of the role of a facilitator to bring people together and increase the impact of grant funding.
I have included a bullet point summary of the main points but the website has links to more detailed guidance.
The fund aims to "support people and organisations that bring farmers, foresters, and other land managers together to improve the local natural environment at a landscape scale. This landscape scale approach can cover land under existing agri-environment and forestry/woodland agreements, common land and land not currently covered by a scheme. It builds on the principles of partnership working to deliver environmental benefits, as demonstrated by various initiatives, including farm clusters and the farmer-led Nature Improvement Area."
"Funding will be awarded to successful applications through a competitive process. Priority will be given to approaches which show partnership and a collective approach across holdings to deliver shared environmental outcomes that go beyond what could be delivered by individual holdings acting in isolation."
- A holding is all the land managed by an applicant in England for agricultural and/or woodland activities.
- Where that holding or property is made up of geographically dispersed production or management units across England these can be entered separately.
- To qualify for funding, the group will have to undertake activities that are new to them as a result of cooperating.
- The members of the group will need to manage an area which is sufficient in size to deliver Countryside Stewardship priorities set out in the statements of priorities for the area and that is at least 2,000 hectares (ha). This threshold represents the size of the holdings, not the size of the area(s) of management activity.
- The area of land must be spread over a minimum of four adjoining, or largely adjoining, separate land holdings managed by different people
- A common is treated as one holding for the purpose of this funding and can join with non-commons to create the land area of the group.
- Applications will be scored against selection criteria, and those with the highest scores will be offered agreements subject to available budgets.
- The maximum funding for a facilitator is dependent on the number of holdings involved in the group and the work that the facilitator does. With 4 holdings a facilitator could receive up to £12,000 per annum, which comprises £500 per holding and up to £10,000 for costs of delivering the cooperation.
- Agreement length: 3 years.
- Application deadline: 14 November 2017.