David Missen details how this scheme will work.
A new scheme for farmers and land managers in protected areas was announced by DEFRA on 24 June. The Farming in Protected Landscapes programme is a part of DEFRA’s “Agricultural Transition plan”. It will offer funding to farmers and land managers in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), National Parks and the Broads, so will stand outside existing environmental schemes. It can fund up to 100% of eligible projects (or less where there is some commercial benefit from the project). At this stage, no detail of maximum amounts or budgets has been given, although one can draw some guidance from the fact that the application process distinguishes between projects costing more or less than £5,000.
In addition to those who farm within a National Park, the Broads or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England, the plan is also available for those outside such areas whose project benefits the protected areas. The project must deliver on at least one of the themes:
- Climate, including carbon capture, landscape resilience and flood risk
- Nature, including habitat improvement, biodiversity and habitat connection
- People, giving greater opportunity to enjoy and understand the landscape, for more diverse audiences to do so and for the improvement of public involvement through volunteering.
- Place, meaning the conservation and enhancement of the landscape, historic structure and features and improving the resilience of nature friendly sustainable farm businesses
Activities that the programme might support include:
- Promoting connectivity between habitats
- Replacing stiles with gates on public footpaths, for easier access
- Conserving historic features on a farm, such as lime kilns or lead mining heritage
- Supporting a locally branded food initiative that promotes the links between the product and the landscape in which it is produced
- Action to reduce carbon emissions on a farm
- Gathering data and evidence to help inform conservation and farming practice
The scheme is not as restrictive as the existing agri-environment schemes, and whilst obviously projects cannot be funded twice over, those which do not fall within the current support schemes may be supported under the new scheme based on estimated costs. The rate of funding will be up to 100% for projects that will not give rise to a commercial gain or a smaller proportion where a business might benefit from the project. Assets funded by the project must be maintained for at least 5 years.
Applications, which will be awarded dependent on outcomes, value for money, sustainability and likelihood of delivery, should be made between 1 July 2021 and 31 January 2022 through the relevant National Park or AONB authority. Applications can be made by individual farmers or land managers, or collaboratively by groups. All projects must be completed by 31 March 2024.
Applications for schemes costing less than £5,000 will be assessed by a panel comprising members from:
- The relevant protected landscape body
- Natural England
- The farming and land management community
- Local specialists
Larger schemes will initially be scored by a senior member of the team who has not been involved in or given advice to the application. The scoring process will weight applications by:
- 40% for project outcomes – climate, nature, people and place
- 20% for value for money
- 20% for how sustainable the project is or the legacy it will leave
- 20% for how likely you are to carry out the project