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New environmental stewardship handbooks now available online

Printed copies are expected to be available week commencing 22 October and will be effective from 1st January 2013.

The fourth edition of the Environmental Stewardship (ES) handbooks are now available on the Natural England website containing details of a suite of new options and updates aimed at increasing the environmental benefits and value for money of the schemes.

As well as the introduction of five new options, changes will also be made to a number of other ES option titles, prescriptions and point values.

The new handbooks will automatically be sent to any farmer or land manager who has requested an application pack but has not yet submitted an application. The fourth edition handbooks terms and conditions will legally apply to any ES agreement with a start date of 1st January 2013 onwards. Any customer with an existing agreement who wishes to amend it to incorporate one of the new options, should review the guidance at

Acceptance into Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS) is determined by a simple points per hectare calculation across the whole farm. Providing a valid application is submitted in which the points target is achieved, the scheme conditions are met and the applicant agrees to deliver the options, funding will automatically be received.

Geoff Sansome, Natural England’s Land Management Director said: “The changes to the scheme gave us the opportunity to rethink the format of the information in the ELS and OELS handbooks to make them more user friendly. We hope applicants will find them clearer and easier to navigate. We’ve also included information to help applicants choose the most beneficial ELS and OELS options for their farm. We can arrange for an environmental specialist to visit your farm to offer help in identifying those options which best fit your farming practices and provide good environmental benefits. ELS customers may be able to save considerable time by applying online.”

Some of the new options are aimed at improving provision for farmland birds. Natural England’s Senior Ornithology Specialist, Phil Grice, gives an example: “Studies have shown that fields managed as Ryegrass Seed-Set [EK20/OK20] can become a haven for birds such as yellowhammers and reed buntings during the winter and early spring. Under this option, the last silage cut is not taken, so rye grass seed is available during the ‘hungry gap’. Also, as this option is retained longer than stubble options, it means that seed is available for a longer period”.

The new handbooks can be found online


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