The government published the Countryside Stewardship (England) Regulations (SI 2020/41) on 22 January 2020. The Regulations allow the Countryside Stewardship grant scheme to open for applications in February 2020.
The scheme will provide funding for farmers, woodland owners, foresters and land managers to make environmental improvements through activities such as:
The scheme currently operates under the Rural Development Regulation ((EU) 1305/2013). The Rural Development Regulation sets out the requirements for Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) during the 2014 to 2020 programming period, which is delivered as the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) in England. Withdrawal from the EU means that the UK will not be part of the next CAP programming period.
The Rural Development Regulation cannot be used for new Countryside Stewardship grant agreements with a start date after 2020 because the legislation only applies for the duration of the current CAP programming period.
The Rural Development Regulation will, however, continue to apply to existing Countryside Stewardship and other agri-environment and forestry agreements which started before the end of 2020.
New Countryside Stewardship grant agreements will instead be governed at a domestic level by this new Regulation which was made under section 98 of the Environment Act 1995 (EA 1995). The EA 1995 allows grants to be made for any activity which is conducive to the conservation or enhancement of the natural beauty or amenity of the countryside (including its flora and fauna and geological and physiographical features) or of any features of archaeological interest there and for the promotion of the enjoyment of the countryside by the public.
Future scheme years may be governed by instruments made under the Agriculture Bill, which was recently introduced on 16 January 2020.