Detailed guide: Countryside Stewardship (CS) 2020 agreement extension

Natural England

February 20
12:12 2020

What is a CS extension?

  • A CS extension is when the end date of an expiring CS Higher Tier (HT) or Mid Tier (MT) agreement can be changed to a later date.
  • We are offering 1 year extensions to CS agreements that meet the eligibility criteria.
  • If your CS MT agreement is due to expire in 2020, we will assess if it is suitable to be extended using the eligibility criteria below. You must continue to meet the criteria. You should contact us to let us know of any changes to your circumstances.
  • If you have a Higher Tier (HT) agreement, a Natural England (NE) advisor will assess it against the environmental outcomes to determine if it is suitable to be extended. The NE advisor will, where appropriate, recommend to us to offer an extension to the agreement and we will then assess it against the eligibility criteria.
  • Woodland options will not be extended. The section How will woodland be affected by CS extension explains this in more detail.
  • Each year after that, we will consider whether or not to offer extensions to all holders of expiring agreements, depending on value for money.

Why are we proposing CS extensions for 2020?

In 2019 industry stakeholders asked ministers and Defra to investigate the opportunity to extend CS agreements. Ministers and Defra agreed to consider the case for a CS extension process on the basis that it will deliver the following benefits:

  • it will provide a simple way to maintain the environmental outcomes that the public has invested in over the last 5 years, where those outcomes meet the scheme expectations
  • it will secure ongoing payments for farmers who are eligible for extensions that will deliver value for money
  • it will be simpler to administer and is a useful short term measure in anticipation of the new Defra environmental land management scheme.

We have worked with Defra and NE to allow suitable CS agreements to be extended, if they meet the criteria below.

What are the principles of CS extension?

CS agreement extensions can be offered where the current agreement already delivers the environmental outcomes expected and meets the requirements set out below.

If your agreement has a 2016 start date and it expires in 2020, we will assess it for eligibility and for Higher Tier, NE will also assess it based on environmental outcomes using the criteria below.

If you are not offered an extension for your agreement, we will let you know in time to apply for a new agreement. Read about the Countryside Stewardship agreements you may apply for instead. You will need to apply using the standard eligibilities and priorities in place at that time.

Eligibility and regulation

  • The CS agreement must not have expired or been terminated on or before the date the extension is accepted by you and received by us.
  • You must want the agreement to be extended and agree to comply with the continuing rules, terms and conditions.

  • There must be no:

    • further capital works needed in order to secure the effective delivery of the options under your agreement, during the extension period

    • outstanding land transfers which cannot be completed before the date of extension. In this situation, as an agreement holder, you must make sure all necessary paperwork is submitted to us before the agreement can be extended (including RLE1s)

    • outstanding breaches related to the agreement that cannot be put right before the date of extension. In this situation, as an agreement holder, you must make sure you have responded to all requests for information from us and NE, relating to the breach, and have taken any required action to put right the issues found

    • unmanaged areas of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Scheduled Monuments (SM) on your holding that need to be brought under management

    • other non-compliances with the scheme rules.

Environmental outcomes

Assessments of environmental benefits are based solely on the options in your current agreement.

NE will complete a technical assessment of HT agreements to check the following before making a recommendation to offer an extension:

  • the options in your current HT agreement remain appropriate for the CS priority target features in the agreement

  • at least 80% of the Priority Habitats (PH) on your holding (if applicable) are under appropriate, beneficial options

  • the management prescriptions are being delivered at the point of assessment as set out in your HT agreement and these options are capable of achieving the required outcomes, as set out in the indicators of success

  • where SSSI land is included in the agreement, the current land management is still appropriate for the SSSI features and NE can give consent without amending the option choices or prescription details and without the need for additional capital works.

In most cases NE will use information we already have so you may not be contacted.

Where your agreement has less than 80% of the PH on the holding under option management in your agreement, it is unlikely you will be offered an extension. The expectation is that you should reapply for a new CS Mid Tier or Higher Tier agreement to bring the unmanaged PH into suitable options. We will only consider an extension for these agreements if there are genuine practical or administrative barriers which would prevent the additional habitat from being managed under a CS agreement. Extensions will not be available on holdings with unmanaged SSSI or SM that need to be under scheme options. In that situation you will be expected to apply for a new Countryside Stewardship agreement.

What additional rules and conditions will apply to an extension?

  • You cannot use an extension offer to add, remove, or replace options in the current agreement.
  • Any incomplete capital works will be removed from the agreement.
  • Extension is available for Organic Higher/Mid Tier agreement holders.
  • Woodland elements of HT agreements will not be extended and will be removed from extended HT agreements.
  • Supplements with a duration of less than 5 years will not be extended. Supplements BE7 and GS16 are only permitted for a maximum of 3 years so cannot be extended.
  • Organic conversion options (OR1, OR2, OR3, OR4 and OR5) which have a duration of 3 years or less will not be extended as they are used at the start of the agreement to convert land to organic status.
  • Educational access items must be retained.
  • You will need to confirm you will retain management control of the land for the extension period if you dont own the land. This means you will need to supply a new land ownership and control form:

    • if there are any changes to management control under the landlords consent for the 2020 agreement year
    • if your current arrangements will expire during the extension period.

Your landlord will need to countersign the 2020 CS extension to your agreement. You can download the Land ownership and control form and send it to us with your reply slip/email so that we receive it by 20 March 2020.

How will woodland be affected by CS extension?

The woodland management option (WD2) in HT agreements will not be extended because it has an agreed 5 year set of prescriptions, some of which are one-off works. The Forestry Commission (FC) and the agreement holder would need to agree a new set of prescriptions for a further 5 year agreement and this is not possible as extensions are only for 1 year. Therefore woodland only HT agreements are not eligible for extension.

In mixed agreements (that have woodland and agri-environment elements), any areas noted for WD2 will be removed from the agreement with only the agri-environment part of the agreement being eligible for consideration for extension. If the woodland within the agreement is on/part of a SSSI and requires further management, then the mixed agreement will not be eligible for extension.

What if I have a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on my land?

If you are offered a CS extension, contact NE to get SSSI consent as soon as you receive the agreement extension offer email/letter. If NE give their consent, they will write to you and they will also let us know. We cannot extend your agreement until consent has been provided.

Will Educational Access be affected?

Educational Access options will be extended. You will need to continue to record and submit a record of these visits, as currently required under the terms of your agreement.

What will happen next?

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