FiPL - Well worth a second look

First published: 01 February 2022

The Yorkshire Dales

Photo credit: iStock/Paula Connelly

With the second year of the Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) scheme just starting, regional environment adviser, Kate Adams, reflects on the successes of year one and explores the opportunities on offer

Developed and funded by Defra, the Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) scheme forms part of the agricultural transition plan and is designed to help farmers navigate the upcoming challenges and changes in agricultural policy.

Aimed primarily, but not exclusively, at farmers and land managers within national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty, FiPL funding can help farm businesses diversify, improve
their productivity or deliver for the environment.

Four themes

The scheme offers grant funding for bespoke projects across four themes:

  • supporting nature recovery
  • mitigating the impacts of climate change
  • protecting or improving the quality and character of the landscape
  • providing opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and its cultural heritage

Launched in July last year, FiPL got off to a slow start but has now picked up pace, with the first seven months bringing in hundreds of applications from across the North East. Successful projects have ranged from nature-based projects, including creation of habitats for farmland species, to new innovations and farm diversification.

Support for adaptation

All aim to help farmers adapt to future challenges and uncertainties, as well as driving the rural economy. And with further reductions to direct payments planned this year, coupled with continuing uncertainty over future Environmental Land Management (ELMs) delivery, there has never been a better time for members to explore how potential projects could deliver for their farming business.
As the second window for applications opens on 1 February, FiPL teams across the region have more than £2m to award and can provide advice and support to members wanting to make an application either as individuals or as part of a group.

Up to 100% of costs

Grants awarded through FiPL can provide up to 100% of project costs, providing there is no commercial benefit to the business. Even if there is a commercial benefit, FiPL funding can still cover a large proportion of project costs, so it is well worth having a conversation with your local team. This is true even if you do not farm directly within a protected landscape but have a project in mind. It is worth having a discussion with the local FiPL team, as funding may still be provided if your project benefits the protected landscape.

"The FiPL scheme is a fantastic opportunity for you to develop a bespoke project for your business," added Kate. "There really is no stipulation on what your project must be, so long as it delivers for one of the key themes: people, place, climate and nature. You could develop a project to diversify your business, repair farm infrastructure or develop projects to enhance biodiversity. Funding can be provided for nature-based and technology led solutions too.

"Funding for these projects is only available until 2024 and does not conflict with existing schemes, so even if you only have a vague idea, it’s worth exploring.”

Members are already forging ahead with projects funded through FiPL

Graham Dixon, Claire Walton, Chris Singer and Kathryn Singer with Emma Taylor from Northumberland National Park_82643

Beating bracken to boost biodiversity

Northumberland’s Upper Coquet is characterised by open meadows, wild moorland and the River Coquet, which flows through the land.

Bracken though is an ongoing problem that poses significant management issues for farmers – creating a monoculture that is very invasive and harmful to livestock.

Graham Dixon of Alwinton Farm, along with other neighbouring farmers, currently controls bracken on the safely accessible areas using conventional machinery, but significant areas are completely inaccessible.

Recognising the opportunity to apply for funding through FiPL for a remote-controlled mulcher to improve bracken management, he worked with neighbouring farms to pull together a successful application to the National Park team.

"Dense bracken cover presents countless challenges for us and impacts the management of the landscape," said Graham.

"With our conventional equipment there are large areas of steep hillside that are inaccessible, making bracken difficult to control. This results in some parts of the farm being over-grazed, while other areas are under-grazed. The growth also threatens animal and human health."

With the new equipment, around 220 more acres of bracken can be cut, making the countryside and Park heritage more accessible to visitors. Better bracken management also helps promote the area’s unique biodiversity.

Being able to invest in the mulcher will bring countless benefits, says Graham.

"By working as a group, with a partnership agreement, the benefits of the investment will be delivered over a far larger geographic area to achieve greater environmental and other gains. It is a classic example of landscape scale co-operative working."

Anne Robson_82644

Helping the farm to adapt

Of all the applications submitted for FiPL funding, it would be hard to find anyone with a project as diverse as Anne Robson’s.

A hill farmer based in Northumberland, Anne and her husband run a hefted flock of 1,500 cheviot and blackfaced ewes, alongside 30 suckler cows over 3,500 acres.

Working with her local FiPL officer, Anne recognised the unique opportunity to create and deliver a five-pronged project that will benefit both the heritage and environment of Northumberland National Park.

Preservation of the farm’s heritage is a key focus of the project, with funding secured for dry-stone wall restoration and rebuilding. Funding has also enabled major restoration to a traditional keb house – estimated to be well over 100 years old and still in use today. This funding will ensure that the iconic structure remains in the landscape for generations to come.

The natural environment and biodiversity are especially important to the National Park, so Anne’s project has also benefited from funding for weed-wiping bracken and the removal of Sitka regeneration (including follow-up treatment to eliminate regrowth). Finally, funding has also been secured for the creation of two on-farm ponds.

"With help from the local officers, I have developed an ambitious, but manageable project, that will benefit the farm business, the environment and the people visiting the
park," said Anne.

"Northumberland is a notoriously difficult farming environment and this funding will go a long way to helping us adapt to the forthcoming challenges.”

Log in for more member exclusive content

Log in now to access additional resources - an NFU briefing on FiPL and a chance to catch up on a virtual meeting held recently which as well as providing a summary of the scheme, also included an overview of the application process, plus hints and tips for those considering applying. 

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