Envirnomental stewardship scheme changes

Stewardship scheme changes

"Natural England has announced that as of the 11th November 2013 it will no longer be possible to transfer Environmental Stewardship schemes to a new occupier."

 

The Change

With less than a week’s notice, Natural England announced that as of the 11th November 2013 it will no longer be possible to transfer Environmental Stewardship schemes (Entry Level Stewardship, Higher Level Stewardship, Organic Entry Level Stewardship and Uplands Entry Level Stewardship) as a whole, or in part, to a new occupier. However, the obligation to inform Natural England of a transfer of an agreement, within three months of it taking place, still remains.

Natural England hopes that once Rural Development Programme transitional rules have been finalised the transfers will eventually be permitted, as at present, but caution is necessary in the interim.

Older schemes, such as Countryside Stewardship, are not affected although there are very few of these left.

Implications

If an agreement cannot be maintained by the contract holder until the end of the contract, all the money received up until the point of transfer, has usually to be repaid. 

Where a farm is sold, the repayment is a relatively small sum (£30/ha or about £12/acre per year) compared with the capital value of the land but compared to most rents it is significant. For example, for a 500-acre (200 ha) farm, four years into the five year agreement, the repayment would be £24,000.

Even now, not everyone appreciates that all the land occupied by the agreement holder will be in the agreement and not just land containing environmental options.

Many sales contracts include standard clauses that require any Stewardship Scheme obligation to be transferred and maintained until the end of the contract. The contracted transfer, at this moment, is no longer possible.

Actions

In the short term, the contract can be retained by the original agreement holder and the management of the stewardship scheme placed on the new occupier. However, this possibility may be short lived since it looks possible that at some point, and this could be as early as 2014, it will no longer be possible to have different parties claiming Single Payment Scheme income and Stewardship Scheme income on the same land parcel.  

Until we know more, the best option is to impose detailed management guidelines on the new occupier and since the agreement holder is not relinquishing management of the options Natural England needs not be informed that the scheme has transferred. Hopefully, this just means the transfer is delayed until clarity is obtained.

Environmental stewardship scheme changes
 

Key contacts

Andrew Wraith

Andrew Wraith

Director
Food & Farming

Savills Lincoln

+44 (0) 1522 508 973

+44 (0) 1522 508 973