In recent weeks Natural England (NE) have outlined how they are improving their internal processes to speed up the processing of applications and payments. NE is committed to continuous improvements. This is addition to the recently announced Countryside Stewardship (CS) improvements and new simplified offers. The NFU is optimistic that the collective changes will lead to improvements for agreement holders and applications.
NE recognises that they still face significant delivery challenges. The vast majority of agreement offers for 1 January 2018 agreements will be going out after the start date. NE is writing to these applicants. Payments are not progressing as well as anyone would want, with a bridging payment being made in respect of some final 2016 CS payments.
The NFU has joined forces with other farming and greening organisations to write to the Secretary of State seeking a guarantee for current and future agreement holders that they will not be disadvantaged post Brexit.
The RPA’s remapping exercise will lead to issues with agreements. On advance payments for 2017 a pragmatic approach is being taken where the best available data will be used to make the payments, any issues being resolved with the final payment. NE is allocating significant resources to deal with mapping issues. However, the NFU remains frustrated that Defra cannot outline how they will deal with changes to option areas created by remapping.
For a full update see the member briefing in related docuements.