To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the (a) effectiveness of the introduction of the mid-tier countryside stewardship scheme and (b) the effect of the introduction of that scheme on processing existing (i) entry and (ii) higher level stewardship claims.
Almost 6,000 mid-tier agreements under Countryside Stewardship (CS) are currently in place. A further 10,500 Mid-Tier applications packs have been requested for agreements that would start on 1 January 2019, an increase of 39% on last year.
Natural England, who currently administer the scheme, have been under severe pressure and this has resulted in delays to the issuing of agreements and the processing of payments. We have been working hard to address this, by, for instance introducing 75% bridging payments to CS agreement holders who have yet to receive either an advance or full payment. Agreement offers for the 2018 period were all issued by end-May, allowing agreement holders to submit their claim by 15th June.