Spending Cuts 3: More funding for HLS?

The Farmers Guardian on Friday reported a Natural England statement that HLS was still open for business. New agreements will not go live until next April though.

http://bit.ly/97IP9F

There were some interesting statistics quoted  – interesting that is, if you are interested in the finer points of agri-environment schemes, which I am.

This year’s £57m HLS budget has been substantially reduced – the article doesn’t say by how much. I think I remember the figure being £7m.

Next year HLS spending will increase to £84m.

By 2015 it will be £154m, hence the 83% increase quoted by Defra.

While there are about 6000 HLS agreement to date, over the next 4 years 6,500 Environmentally Sensitive Area, and 10,000 Countryside Stewardship agreements will come to the end of their natural lives. The conversion rate of these “classic” schemes to HLS so far has been about 30%, while the remainder go into Entry Level Scheme, or nothing. So there will be about 5000 classic scheme conversions to HLS. That should soak up most the “extra” money.

For grasslands, perhaps NE should be much more picky about which classic scheme participants get access to HLS funding in future. The small-scale assessment that has been done has shown that, nationally, the success rate of grassland creation in classic schemes has been very poor: less than 10% have produced good wildlife-rich grasslands. And at the moment, advisors don’t even properly assess the success of the grassland restoration/creation projects that were funded through classic schemes before converting them to HLS – so they could be giving very generous HLS funding to continue schemes that may well have not worked.

Equally, classic schemes which have successfully protected important wildlife-rich grasslands, or have created good new ones, are unfairly excluded from entry in HLS because their farms are small, they don’t want to enter a Whole Farm agreement, or their applications don’t tick enough HLS boxes. Wildlife-rich grasslands, especially lowland meadows, are often now found in small fragments scattered across the countryside, so the way HLS currently operates, predicates against Classic scheme holders from getting into HLS if they have small but important grasslands on their farms.

That’s not really a good use of taxpayer’s money in these austerity times.

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About grasslandstrust

The Grasslands Trust is the only national UK charity that focuses entirely on saving grasslands that are valuable because they are rich in wildlife, history, or for other reasons.
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2 Responses to Spending Cuts 3: More funding for HLS?

  1. David German says:

    This is an interesting read. I help to manage a 4 acre field with a small group of local residents who share ownership and in which we have been trying to achieve an increasing population of wild flowers. We take an annual hay cut but have no grazing.
    We have no funding except our own pockets. We have had it surveyed with good results and it was registered as a Local Wildlife Site ( used to be a County Wildlife Site). So we are conserving what is often described as a rapidly vanishing natural resource. We are quite happy with the situation but it continues to strike me that we should be registering on conservation radars as an enterprise to be encouraged. Everyone I show the meadow is very complimentary about it so thats OK but thats the limit of interest. We presumably show up on a Somerset County list somewhere but there is never any contact from anyone to see what we are up to. I’m sure this is quite normal and I am sure there are many other small sites like this all in the same situation and perhaps they like it that way. Its just a bit puzzeling to me.

    • milesking says:

      Thanks for your comment David.

      You’re quite right – small meadows full of wildflowers now cover a tiny proportion of the land they used to cover, say 50 years ago. The fact that your meadow has been registered as a Local Wildlife Site proves how valuable it is – I don’t know the figures for Somerset but nationally in England, around 8% of the land is SSSI (in lowland England the proportion is far lower – more like 3%) and another 6% or so is Local Wildlife Site. So what you are looking after is incredibly important, as part of the 10% or so of England that still supports a wide range of formerly common wildlife.

      I wouldn’t worry that no-one comes to see what you are doing. As you say, this is completely normal; I just hope that if you do need advice or support, that there are people who can help you.

      Miles

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