The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) took on the administration of Countryside Stewardship from Natural England in October 2018, along with identified operational resources. Using customer feedback to improve the application process, Defra is supporting the RPA’s efforts to simplify the administration and speed up processing of the scheme as far as possible under the current EU system by streamlining processes and improving IT.
Having all Common Agricultural Policy schemes under one agency offers a more joined up approach and improves service, such as by having one point of contact.
The RPA is already beginning to deliver much needed changes, such as technical updates to systems and improving internal processes. We are offering more ways to apply online, providing clearer guidance and reducing the evidence burden on applicants.
We have also committed to making annual revenue payments to 95% of 2018 Countryside Stewardship customers by March 31, and will be making bridging payments in early April so no eligible recipient will wait beyond early April to receive a payment.