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Initial Evaluation of the implementation of Countryside Stewardship in England - LM0464

Description
BACKGROUND:
Defra launched the new Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme in 2015 which replaced the existing Environmental Stewardship (ES) scheme and operates under the legal framework of the latest Rural Development Regulation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the period 2014-2020.

Components of the new CS scheme include
• Multi-annual land management agreements (typically 5yrs in length)
• A targeted ‘high tier’ for the most environmentally important sites
• A competitive ‘mid tier’ focused on tackling specific environmental issues such as diffuse water pollution and improving the farmed environment for farmland birds and pollinators
• An organic component within high tier, mid tier or stand alone.
• Capital only agreements that will support water quality objectives.
• Woodland capital grants to support woodland management plans, woodland creation and/or tree health.
• A facilitation fund to encourage co-ordinated and collaborative agreements to support issues on a landscape scale.

The new scheme also has significant changes in the delivery process specifically –
• A move to an online application process (by default for all applicants) supported by a new IT platform (Rural Payments Service).
• Transactional aspects of the scheme gradually transferring to the Rural Payments Agency.
• An annual application window for multi-year agreements.

The new scheme is set against a backdrop of changes to pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy and a new Basic Payment Scheme which includes greening requirements and revised cross-compliance rules.

OBJECTIVES:
In view of this change Defra, Natural England, the Environment Agency, Historic England, the Forestry Commission and the Rural Payments Agency require a comprehensive evaluation of the introductory phase of the new CS scheme.

The evaluation will -
• Provide an assessment of the attitudes and response of applicants in relation to all elements of the new scheme.
• It will aim to evaluate the effectiveness, accessibility and provision of scheme information and advice.
• Assess how external factors such as Greening and Cross Compliance are affecting potential applicants.
• Identify the main factors influencing scheme and option uptake, and non-uptake.
• Compare facilitated and non-facilitated uptake.
• It will also aim to assess the level of agreement uptake: which options are carried forward from legacy agreements, and which are not and the effect that this has (if any) at a landscape scale.

METHOD:
1. Scheme applicants and applications to be tested through face to face surveys.
2. Scheme agreements to be evaluated to identify pattern of initial scheme uptake and identify any patterns.
3. Stakeholder views on scheme launch, promotional activity and advice to be tested trough telephone survey
4. Points 1 and 2 to be repeated for second year of scheme.

REPORTING:
The final report will bring together all of the findings alongside a detailed methodology and will present a thorough analysis and discussion of the initial years of the scheme and provide recommendations for improvements.

Interim reports will be produced to provide updates on project progress relating to the various objectives listed above
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : CS Implementation Obj 1 Final report   (2327k)
• FRP - Final Report : CS Imp Objective 4 Final report   (1002k)
• FRP - Final Report : CS Implementation Obj3 Final report   (1807k)
• FRP - Final Report : CS Implementation Objective 2 report Phase 2 Final report   (2911k)
• ANX - Annex : CS Implementation Obj 2 Appendix 2 Supplementary Output   (3645k)
• INF - Information Leaflet : Implementation Infographic Final   (305k)
• TPS - Two Page Summary : CS implementation 2pg summary November 2018   (195k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2016

To: 2018

Cost: £132,928
Contractor / Funded Organisations
F E R A (FERA)
Keywords
Agriculture              
Environmental Stewardship              
Evaluation              
Farm Management              
Natural Environment - Ecosystem services