Natural England - Area covered by Stewardship hits record high

Area covered by Stewardship hits record high

30 January 2013

Latest figures have confirmed that a record 6.5 million hectares of England’s farmland - representing over 70% of the country’s available farmland - is now covered by Environmental Stewardship schemes delivering benefits for wildlife and for farm businesses.

Defra’s Environmental Stewardship scheme is managed by Natural England and supports land management work that conserves wildlife and natural resources and improves public access.  Natural England’s locally-based advisers work with around 60,000 customers (including farmers, conservation organisations, smallholders and commons associations) and over £400 million is invested through Environmental Stewardship into the environmental management of England’s farmland each year.  Research suggests that this has multiplier benefits in the wider rural community, sustaining up to 15,000 jobs and generating additional spending estimated at as much as £850 million per year [Note 1].

Welcoming the news, Poul Christensen, Chair of Natural England, said: “The fact that well over two thirds of England’s farmland is now being managed with the support of Environmental Stewardship is clear evidence of the commitment that land managers are making to help look after our countryside and wildlife.  The farming sector along with the conservation and industry groups in the Campaign for the Farmed Environment partnership have played an important part in helping land managers to reach such a significant target and we can be justifiably proud of this achievement.”

Jim Egan of GWCT and Chair of the Campaign for the Farmed Environmentexternal link Delivery and Communications Group added: “The vast majority of farmers and land managers view support for the natural environment as part and parcel of running productive farm businesses and the news that over 70% of England’s farmland is now covered by an agri-environment agreement is a very positive result.”

Environmental Stewardship was first introduced in 2005 and since then has gone from strength to strength, reaching out to the majority of England’s farmers and successfully incorporating earlier agri-environment schemes that last year celebrated a Silver Jubilee of helping support environmentally-friendly farming.

With over 45,000 Environmental Stewardship agreements now in place [Note 2], Natural England is targeting those projects that offer the most wide-ranging environmental gains, and recent changes have been made to entry Level Scheme options to increase the benefits that ES investment is able to deliver for the environment.

County-by-county information on what ES is delivering locally and a selection of case studies about the farmers that are involved are now available on our website.


Additional notes:

  1. Source: Agri-environment schemes in England 2009 - A review of results and effectiveness.

  2. As at 5 November 2012 there were 52,605 active stewardship agreements.  7,274 involved Classic schemes, such as the Countryside Stewardship scheme, that are no longer open to new entrants.

  3. Natural England uses a baseline figure for the Utilisable Agricultural Area (UAA) in England of 9,291,357 ha, so that statistical analysis is comparable over time.

About Environmental Stewardship
Environmental stewardship schemes are administered by Natural England, on behalf of Defraexternal link, and fund farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land.

The objectives of Environmental Stewardship are to:

  • Promote public access and understanding of the countryside

  • Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character

  • Protect the historic environment and natural resources

  • Conserve biodiversity

For further information (media enquiries only) please contact:
David Hirst, Natural England press office: 

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