Soil & Water Management Centre

Developing & improving your soils

Rural Development Programme

The main objective is to better manage natural resources and to ensure the wider adoption of climate friendly farming practices through granting measures detailed below. The RDP aim is to protect 2.5 million hectares of farmland through environmental land management targeted to specific biodiversity and water objectives. 14,000 hectares of woodland will be planted. The productivity of farming and forestry will be boosted which will result in economic growth and more jobs. Support will target tourism, broadband infrastructure and renewable energy. [To see a fact sheet on RDP 2014-2020 click here. To download a booklet on containing info on who can apply, what the grants are for, how much money you can apply for and an example of projects click here.]

  • Catchment Sensitive Farming: reduce agricultural water pollution-a project run by Natural England in partnership with the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It raises awareness of diffuse water pollution from agriculture (DWPA) by giving free training and advice to farmers in priority catchment areas in England. The amount of aid given for advisory services is limited to €1,500/farmer per advisory theme. Click here for Catchment Sensitive Farming Publications and Case Studies or here to be directed to location specific info.

  • Countryside Stewardship: designed to encourage biodiversity (closed 2016 but likely to open again 2017). The CS is replacing the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS) and Capital Grant Scheme (The CGS will continue through Catchment Sensitive Farming to provide match funded grants for projects aimed at improving water quality. The CS is open to all eligible farmers and land managers but with more specific, targeted objectives underpinned by a national targeting framework, highlighting key priorities across England.

  • The new scheme is split across three tiers, the lower tier encompasses various grant schemes and a mid and higher tier that replace current environmental stewardship schemes.
  • Lower Tier – Made up of  capital grants the lower tier will provide funds for woodland creation, hedge and boundary restoration and measures to improve water quality. For woodland tree health and restoration – applications open all year round.

  • Mid Tier – Designed to replace the current Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) it facilitates wider environmental management options. Payments are made based on the options opted for on application rather than having to meet a set points quota and being paid on a per hectare basis (as in ELS). Chances of success will be greater if applicants also choose options from the ‘Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package’.  3% of the farmed area is required to be compliant for this package.

  • Higher Tier – Targets environmentally important sites, featuring habitat restoration for certain species of wildlife and woodland creation. As with Higher Level Stewardship (HLS), before applying for the higher tier scheme contact will need to be made with either Natural England or the Forestry Commission.
Search for CS grants applicable to you by following this link.

Rural Development Programme for England: LEADER funding

The acronym ‘LEADER' derives from the French words "Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l'Économique Rurale" which means, ‘Links between the rural economy and development actions'. The idea was to enlist the energy and resources of people and bodies that could contribute to the rural development process by forming partnerships at a sub-regional level between the public, private and civil sectors. As part of the rural development programme, you can apply to your Local Action Group (LAG) for funding for projects that create jobs, help your business to grow, and benefit the rural economy, under the LEADER scheme.

What can you apply for?

A LAG is made up of people from the local community and the local public and private sector (click here to find your local LAG). Each LAG decides which projects they will fund in their area. This depends on their priorities but all projects must support one or more of the 6 LEADER priorities:

  • support micro and small businesses and farm diversification
  • boost rural tourism
  • increase farm productivity
  • increase forestry productivity
  • provide rural services
  • provide cultural and heritage activities

A total of £138 million is available in the England between 2015 and 2020 under the scheme.

How to apply

To find out more, and to apply, you should contact your LAG, or check their website, for information about:

  • funding in your area
  • funding priorities – including the local development strategy
  • how to apply for funding
  • past projects
  • LAG members

Forestry Commission Grants

If a farmer has woodland, there are grants for forest development and management. Funding comes from the EU. Each region runs the scheme to meet local needs. However, a useful first point of contact for grants is the UK Forestry Commission. Click here to find out more.

Aid for Energy

Farmers can grow crops such as willow and rapeseed for energy production. Energy companies may burn the crops to create electricity; or they may process the crops into fuel such as biodiesel. Farmers receive a set amount per hectare of energy crop.

Protein Crops

For the purpose of a grant, protein crops are field beans, peas and sweet lupins. Farmers growing these crops receive a set premium per hectare.


The APNS, Aid for Energy and Protein Crop grant schemes have restrictions. For example, if the total number of energy crop hectares exceeds two million across the UK, the amount of the payments drops.

Some schemes also have a limited life. It’s therefore wise to check the current and future position on grant payments within a region before changing a farm’s produce.


Site Admin: Tim Chamen
t: 01525 405121/Mob 07714 206048

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