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 HLS 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 at office locations across the country between 5th and 23rd September, agents are asked to contact their local Natural England adviser, call 0300 060 0011 or email 3-TierHLS@naturalengland.org.uk
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