UK countryside

Farmers can now apply for a slice of £2.5million for environmental improvement as part of the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund.

The government grant aims to create new groups that will deliver large-scale environment improvement in their area over the next three years.

Improvements include natural flood prevention, enhancing wildlife habitats or planting more trees.

To apply, groups must submit plans showing how they will work together to share knowledge to protect and enhance their local environment.

Farming minister George Eustice said: “We know that more can be achieved by trying to coordinate a landscape scale approach to creating habitats and supporting wildlife.

“This fund helps support local clusters of farmers to come together to promote similar interventions and options so that the management on each farm helps to complement a wider effort and we can achieve critical mass as we strive to support wildlife in our countryside.:

One example of a group benefitting from the scheme is the Wyre Forest Facilitation Fund, which joined in 2015. Since then the group has grown to include 70 farms spanning 5,138 hectares.

Over the past year, the group has delivered 18 training events focusing on upskilling other farmers on woodland restoration and creation, hedgerow and tree planning and natural flood management.

RPA chief executive Paul Caldwell said: “Today’s announcement means that more farmers will have the opportunity to benefit from this funding and deliver long-term improvements for the environment, working with other local farmers.

“With this funding, facilitators will be able to amplify the benefits brought by the Countryside Stewardship schemes, as well as reaping the rewards for farmers, land managers and our rural communities.'

Groups have until October 4 to apply for funding, with applications made on the Facilitation Fund page.