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Stewardship payments and transfer of land - Feb 2014

Stewardship payments and transfer of land

RH & RW Clutton - which has been involved in setting up many stewardship and woodland grant schemes for clients - is pleased to note that at least a part of the confusion arising from the reforms of the CAP (due in 2015) which affect agri-environment schemes (including forestry) has been resolved.

Environmental Stewardship is in a transitional stage pending the start of the next Rural Development Programme in 2015 and following the end of the previous programme on 31 December. The Information Note published by Natural England on 7 November 2013 caused concern to all those who were in the process of selling or renting land under an ELS or HLS agreement. Natural England had stated that it was unclear how/if changes to existing agri-environment agreements might be processed after 12 November 2013, so that it might not be possible for them to be transferred on the sale of land or grant or termination of a tenancy.

RH & RW Clutton have welcomed a new Information Note issued on 10 January 2014. This note confirms that on the transfer of any land subject to an existing agri-environment agreement, whether on a sale or on a change in a tenancy arrangement, so long as the new occupier is willing to accept responsibility for the delivery of the remainder of the obligations under that agreement, then Natural England will produce an agreement to transfer the remaining commitments to the new occupier.

Land transferred will generally remain in the same agreement type ie, HLS, Uplands ELS, OLES or ELS, but if the transfer means that a holding would become eligible for Uplands or Organic ELS then a new type of agreement may be considered. There are some helpful FAQs set out in the Information Note.

On the 9 January the Forestry Commission England also issued an Operations Note to explain how they intend to handle English Woodland Grant Scheme business during the period to 2015. While they are continuing to process a small number of outstanding woodland creation applications it is not yet clear whether or not they will be able to accept further applications later in the year.

Clients who are considering forestry grants or are involved in setting up new tenancies or sales of land under Agri- Environment schemes should seek professional advice – and RH & RW Clutton will be pleased to help

Contact Oliver Harwood oliverh@rhrwclutton.co.uk  for more information, or James Tillard jamest@rhrwclutton.co.uk if you are thinking of selling land.

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