The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will replace the current Single Payment Scheme (SPS) from 1 January 2015. It is envisaged that the BPS will continue until 2019, although this may be extended as has been the case with the SPS.
The BPS will be similar to the SPS in the sense that entitlements have to be matched against eligible land to generate an annual payment with certain land management rules to be followed.
In England DEFRA has decided that the three existing regions will remain with their separate entitlements although the SDA (excluding moorland) and lowland payment rates are to be equal with moorland payments increasing.The effect is to slightly lower the current lowland payment rate and deliver a moderate increase to the SDA payment.
The largest gain will be seen on moorland entitlements that will rise by around £26/ha to deliver a payment of about £56/ha. BPS will introduce greening, compliance and with these requirements will deliver 30% of the payment and should be counted as a top up within the new BPS system.
The basis of greening includes three main areas:
Certain businesses are excluded from the scheme and the rules around land that is kept in condition suitable for agriculture without activity is an area to watch especially on sporting estates, yet detail is awaited. Other areas of change include the introduction of a Young Farmers Scheme, which is designed to help young farmers setting up in business and will deliver a top up payment to the value of entitlements for a five year period.
Over the last decade there has been continued investment in grouse moors across the country. This has covered a range of things from additional staff to habitat regeneration to infrastructure. There have been some high profile cases in recent years between landowners and the regulatory bodies covering particularly statutory designations, infrastructure projects and habitat. With such a large proportion of the UK’s grouse moorland carrying designations of various sorts, they are highly regulated areas.
It is important to have in place the necessary consents to allow the land manager to go about his regular tasks whilst complying with the statutory designations. In the vast majority of cases in England, this is covered within the Moorland Management Plan (MMP), which generally forms part of the Stewardship schemes in place.These documents cover things ranging from the burning rotation through to sheep foddering and ditch maintenance.
It is important that all parties involved are fully aware of what is and is not permitted within the MMP. These are usually 10 year management plans, although it is possible to do things in addition to those agreements. Applications can be made to the regulatory body Natural England (NE) for consent to carry out tasks and it is important to establish a good working relationship with the NE officer for the moor.
Advice should also be keenly sought when works are planned on common land as there are requirements in certain circumstances to obtain consent from the Secretary of State when erecting physical structures on common land. We have recently been involved in obtaining consent across land designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and works have now commenced. The process can be arduous, although with the correct expertise, knowledge and plenty of patience, it is possible. It is also very important to stand your ground in certain circumstances in your quest to achieve the necessary consents.