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Stackyard News Aug 05

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Natural Environment & Rural Communities Bill Published

Commission To Examine Affordable Rural Housing

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    Defra Grants Are Making A Difference For Rural Communities And The Environment

Rural communities, rural economies and the environment have all benefited from Defra's England Rural Development Programme (ERDP), a report out today shows.

The ERDP Annual Report 2004 shows that substantial progress is being made towards realising the ambitious environmental, social and economic outcomes envisaged in the Programme. For example, in the last year alone:

  • Over 2,000 full time equivalent jobs were created or sustained under new Rural Enterprise Scheme projects;
  • Over 29,000 training days were secured for farmers and foresters under the Vocational Training Scheme.
  • 6,000 hectares of new woodland were approved to be planted under Woodland Grant Scheme and Farm Woodland Premium Scheme agreements;
  • Countryside Stewardship agreements, reached a total estimated cumulative area of 325,000 hectares;
  • Environmentally Sensitive Area agreements reached a total estimated cumulative area of 132,000 hectares;
  • 16 collaborative marketing ventures were established under new Processing and Marketing Grant projects;

Rural Affairs Minister Jim Knight said:

"As well as delivering real benefits for rural communities, their economies and the environment, the ERDP also helps farmers to diversify their businesses, reconnect with their markets and acquire the skills they need to manage their businesses viably and competitively in response to the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the introduction of the Single Payment Scheme."

Of the 10 schemes originally brought together under the collective banner of the ERDP, 5 of them were effectively closed to new applicants during the year in preparation for the introduction of two new schemes to replace them.

The Countryside Stewardship, Environmentally Sensitive Areas and Organic Farming Schemes were closed to new applicants to be replaced by a single scheme called Environmental Stewardship in March 2005. The Woodland Grant Scheme and the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme were also closed to new applicants to be replaced by the new English Woodland Grant Scheme, managed by the Forestry Commission in July 2005.

As part of Rural Strategy 2004, Defra has reviewed its funding streams for rural areas. The Department is committed to reducing the current range of schemes and programmes to a framework based around three major funds targeted to the three Departmental strategic priorities impacting on rural areas: environmental land management and natural resource protection; sustainable rural communities; and sustainable food and farming. This approach aims to achieve greater simplicity for customers and to improve value for money; it is being implemented progressively, with the final stage to be completed with the roll out of the next rural development programme (2007-2013).

Defra is now preparing for the successor to the ERDP, which will operate from 2007 to 2013. A full public consultation on the proposed new European draft Rural Development Regulation was held over the Summer of 2004 after the first draft of the regulation was published in July 2004. The experience of operating rural development measures since 2000 and before will be used to inform decisions to be taken about the future structure and delivery arrangements for the ERDP from 2007 onwards.


1. The ERDP Annual Report 2004 is available online at:

2. The ERDP is a seven year, £1.6 billion programme launched in October 2000. The Programme is co-financed by the European Union and, since 2001, is also supported by the redirection (or "modulation") of funds from production-related subsidy under the Common Agricultural Policy into rural development expenditure.

3. The ERDP provides a framework for the operation of a number of separate but integrated schemes, which provide new opportunities to protect and improve the countryside, to develop sustainable enterprises and to help rural communities to thrive. The schemes that were in operation in 2004 were:

  • Hill Farm Allowance (supporting sustainable farming in the English hills).
  • Energy Crops Scheme (encouraging renewable energy production).
  • Rural Enterprise Scheme (supporting a diversified and enterprising rural economy).
  • Vocational Training Scheme (improving occupational skills of farmers).
  • Processing and Marketing Grant (improving agricultural processing and marketing infrastructure).
  • Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas Schemes (protecting landscapes and wildlife habitats, improving biodiversity).
  • Organic Farming Scheme (promoting organic production).
  • Woodland Grant and Farm Woodland Premium Schemes (encouraging planting of new woodland and maintenance of existing woodland).

4. The Environmentally Sensitive Areas, Countryside Stewardship and Organic Farming, were replaced, by Environmental Stewardship (ES) which was launched on 3 March 2005. The scheme is made up of three elements; Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS).

5. The Woodland Grant Scheme and Farm Woodland Premium Scheme have now been merged into the English Woodland Grant Scheme.

6. For more information on any of the schemes in the ERDP, contact your local Defra Rural Development Service office or visit the Defra website

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Department for Environment
Food and Rural Affairs