of the first annual report for the Countryside Stewardship and
Environmentally Sensitive Areas Schemes. This is the first time that
the history and achievements of Defra's two main agri-environment
The report was compiled in response to a recommendation from the
House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Report
on 'The Future of UK Agriculture in a Changing World' (January 2003)
that the government should provide regular reports on the performance
of agri-environment schemes. Copies have today been placed in the
House of Commons Library.
In his foreword to the report, Mr Morley comments:
'This report makes a significant landmark in the history of the two
schemes. Both have made a significant contribution to the
sustainability and preservation of rural and urban fringe areas.
'The schemes have served their purpose well, but the time has come to
take stock and look to the future. We anticipate our current Review
of Agri-environment Schemes will lead to the introduction of the
Environmental Stewardship Scheme, which will replace both Countryside
Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas in 2005.
'It is a real pleasure for me to be associated with the first annual
Copies of the report are available from Conservation Management
Division, Defra, London (020 7238 6022) or by visiting the website
1.The Countryside Stewardship Scheme offers payments to farmers and
land managers to improve the natural beauty and diversity of the
countryside. The scheme operates throughout England outside
Environmentally Sensitive Areas. It is operated by the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and is one of the ten
schemes that make up the England Rural Development Programme.
Countryside Stewards hip currently has over 16,000 agreement holders.
2.Farmers enter into a ten-year agreement and payments range from
£20 to£555 per hectare depending on the type of land management
agreed. The majority of payments are co-financed by the EU.
3.Management under Countryside Stewardship has been shown to benefit
several previously declining bird species including Cirl Bunting,
Stone Curlew and Grey Partridge. Over 1,300 miles of dry stone walls
and over 17,500 miles of hedgerow have been restored, with over
44,500 miles of grass margins being established. Land under agreement
currently totals over 500,000 hectares. Between 2000 and 2006, Defra
has allocated£500m to the Scheme, with a target of bringing an
additional half a million hectares into agreement.
4.In running the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, Defra works closely
with partner organisations including the Countryside Agency, English
Nature, English Heritage, the National Park Authorities, The Wildlife
Trusts, The Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and the RSPB.
5.The Countryside Stewardship Scheme is now closed for new
applications. It will be replaced in 2005 by the new Environmental
6.After starting as a five year-year plan in 1987, the
Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme now operates with ten-year
agreements under the England Rural Development Programme. The Scheme
was introduced in areas of national environmental significance, where
changes in farming methods posed a threat to the environment.
Farmers enter management agreements with Defra and receive annual
payments to adopt environmentally friendly farming practices which
safeguard and enhance areas of high landscape, wildlife and historic
value. Whilst the scheme will still operate for existing agreement
holders it is now closed to new applicants.
7.ESAs are selected by Defra after consultation with the Countryside
Agency, English Heritage and English Nature. There are 22 ESA S in
England, covering over 1.1m hectares (around 10% of agricultural
land) and with approximately 12,500 agreements covering around
640,000 hectares of land. These include the Broads, the South Downs,
Exmoor, Dartmoor and the Lake District. Payments to farmers in 2003
8.The England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) provides a
framework for the operation of 10 separate but integrated schemes
which provide new opportunities to protect and improve the
countryside, to develop sustainable enterprises and to help rural
communities to thrive. The schemes (and a brief outline of their
Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas Schemes
(protecting landscapes and wildlife habitats, improving
Organic Farming Scheme (promoting organic production).
Hill Farm Allowance Scheme (supporting sustainable farming in the
Woodland Grant and Farm Woodland Premium Schemes (encouraging
planting of new woodland and maintenance of existing woodland).
Energy Crops Scheme (encouraging renewable energy production).
Rural Enterprise Scheme (supporting a diversified and enterprising
Vocational Training Scheme (improving occupational skills of
Processing and Marketing Grant (improving agricultural processing and
9.A total of£1.6bn of EU and Government money is being made
available under these schemes in England during the seven years (2000 to
2006) of the programme.
10.For more information on any of the schemes in the ERDP, contact
your local Defra Rural Development Service office or visit the Defra
website at www.defra.gov.uk