With the Government’s publication of the Environmental Improvement Plan 2023, there has been detailed scrutiny from all interested parties to understand what it means.
Headlines include plans over a five-year period to restore nature, improve air, water and land quality, increase the prosperity of the country and first halt, then reverse, the decline in nature.
The strategy then sets out a number of promises relating to the restoration of land to new wildlife habitats, the delivery of clean water, the improvement of air quality, the incentivisation of farmers to adopt nature-friendly farming practices on 70% of farmed land, boosting green growth, creating new jobs and achieving green space within a 15-minute walk of every home in the country.
These are worthy aims which have a very broad level of support, but the response from farming, environmental and other groups has been consistent: how is this to be done, and what are the financing arrangements? The plan is strong on intentions but lacking in detail on the “How?” as to both method and funding.
Farmers and land managers have a key role to play in meeting the report’s environmental commitments while producing essential commodities. So it is timely that an Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) update policy paper, published three days later, brings about some clarity for English farmers caught in subsidy transition. The ELMS update paper links the ambitions of the Environmental Improvement Plan with the means to do so, for example, the Government’s target to create or restore 30,000 miles of hedgerow by 2037.
Whilst clarity on the Sustainable Farming Incentive and improved Countryside Stewardship is welcome, and will encourage new entrants to apply, it is crucial that incentives for Landscape Recovery remain strong to meet some of the Government’s wider goals, such as clean and plentiful water.
At Galbraith, we have seen growing interest from estates and farm clusters applying for Landscape Recovery funding to support significant projects. Further rounds of competitive funding in Spring 2023 are likely to add more bids. At Galbraith, we are willing and able to assist with applications for Environmental Land Management Schemes, using our wider expertise to take into consideration the individual circumstances of the applicant.