We are aware that there continues to be a number of Natural England delays in processing payments for annual revenue claims under both the Environmental Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship Grant Schemes. We understand that many of the issues holding up payments seem to relate to both on the ground physical inspections and mapping changes conducted in 2017 as well as the large scale Proactive Land Change Detection (PLCD) exercise completed by the Rural Payments Agency in 2017. These changes have led to Natural England having to manually update Environmental Stewardship claims to reflect these changes before a claim can be paid, we understand that this is a labour-intensive process.
Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme we understand that agreement holders should now have all received at least 75% of their estimated 2018 revenue claim and the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, stated that 95% of all 2018 annual claims should be paid in full by the 31 July 2019, with a proactive move to make full payments at a sooner date wherever possible.
We also understand that a number of clients who have made capital claims for capital items both under Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier Agreements and Hedgerow and Boundary Agreements are still awaiting payment from Natural England whom have acknowledge a backlog in respect of these claims and are working through them as quickly as possible.
Clearly the above payment delays are affecting the decision making process of those looking to enter into the Countryside Stewardship Schemes and the RPA has implemented a Countryside Stewardship Improvement Plan giving increased resources and software functionality improvements, alongside other aspects which should assist with the more timely completion of future revenue claims. The deadline to request Mid-Tier packs for a 1st January 2020 start date has now passed however should you require any advice and assistance in completing an application you have already started, do not hesitate to contact a member of our Agricultural team on 01423 860322.