Pre ERDP Schemes

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Overview ] Protected Areas ] England Rural Development Programme ] [ Pre ERDP Schemes ]

All schemes entered into prior to the ERDP will be honoured until expiry. CLICK HERE for further information can be from the DEFRA Website. 

Nitrate Sensitive Areas

The Nitrate Sensitive Areas Scheme, operates in 32 selected areas in England under the EC agri-environment measures. It was closed to further new entrants in 1998 following the  Government's Comprehensive Spending Review, although existing agreements will continue for their full term. This voluntary Scheme compensates farmers for significantly changing their farming practices to help protect valuable supplies of drinking water. The 32 NSA's including 10 former pilot areas originally designated in 1990, cover approximately 35,000 hectares of eligible agricultural land.

The aim of the NSA Scheme is to help reduce or stabilise high and/or rising nitrate levels in key sources of public water supplies, through voluntary changes to farming activity going well beyond 'good agricultural practice' (see NVZ's section B), thereby helping to ensure that the abstracted water meets the 50 mg/l limit for nitrate laid down in the EC Drinking Water Directive (80/778/EEC).

The scheme offers farmers several different types of voluntary measures, involving substantial changes in farming practice to reduce nitrate leaching losses from their land. These are:

Premium Arable Scheme (PAS):

Conversion of arable land to extensive grass under one of the following management prescriptions:

bulletPAS Option A - Unfertilised and ungrazed grass
bulletPAS Option B - Unfertilised and ungrazed grass, using native grass species
bulletPAS Option C - Unfertilised grass with grazing
bulletPAS Option D - Grassland receiving up to 150 kg/ha/year of nitrogen, with optional grazing
bulletPAS Option E - Former pilot scheme grassland with woodland
bulletPAS Option S (NSA Set-aside) - As Option B, but farmers may count the land towards their AAPS set-aside requirement

Separate schemes for arable (left) and Grassland (right) 

Premium Grass Scheme (Extensification of existing intensively managed grass)

Basic Scheme: low nitrogen arable cropping, under the following options:

bulletOption A (restricted rotation) - up to 150 kg/ha/year of nitrogen; no potatoes or vegetable brassica crops to be grown
bulletOption B (standard rotation) - up to 150 kg/ha/year in four out of five years. Up to 200 kg/ha in the fifth year

Farmers enter their land into the scheme on a field by field basis and give undertakings lasting for five years. All undertakings include the requirement not to damage, destroy or remove environmental features, such as walls, hedges, trees, lakes, ponds, streams, traditional weatherproof farm buildings and features of historical or archaeological interest on/or bordering the land entered into the scheme.


Payments vary depending on the area and option. Payments of up to 625/ha for unfertilised, ungrazed grassland are available, one assumes this can be mown for hay after a specific date. Payments of 105 or 80/ha (depending on area) for option A, restricted rotation and 65/ha for option B, standard rotation (all areas).

CLICK HERE for information from the DEFRA Website. 


Moorland Scheme

The Moorland Scheme in England was launched on 28 March 1995. The scheme aims to protect and improve the upland moorland environment, by encouraging farmers to undertake a range of positive measures designed to conserve and enhance the rural environment. The Scheme gives farmers the opportunity to improve the environmental value of their moorland by grazing fewer sheep and by improving its management and sets maximum winter and summer stocking density limits for heather moorland.

Farmers joining the scheme received an annual payment for the number of ewes removed from the flock in order meet these stocking densities. They may also be eligible for payment in respect of bracken control and the erection of temporary fencing in order to exclude stock from heather regeneration areas where these are considered likely to deliver environmental benefits. All agreement holders must also undertake to follow a 'Moorland Management Plan'.

The first year of the scheme resulted in 13 agreements under which 3900 ewes were removed from moorland. Because uptake in the first year of the scheme was disappointing, changes to payment levels and eligibility rules were introduced in the 1996 scheme year. At present no further information is available on uptake rates.

MAFF intend to monitor the scheme to assess its environmental and socio-economic impact to ensure its objectives are being met. This may involve surveys using aerial photographs backed up as necessary by on-the-ground inspections and questionnaire surveys. There will also be regular checks to monitor compliance with the scheme.

Moorland is generally only suitable for extensive sheep grazing



Each ewe removed, 30, bracken control by chemical means, 120/hectare, by mechanical means, 110/ha and temporary fencing, 1.20/m.

Pause for thought..........under the Moorland Scheme, farmers were offered payments for removing ewes from the flock to meet stocking density requirements. How would this make a significant difference to the upland ecology?

CLICK HERE for information from the DEFRA Website. 

Habitat Scheme

CLICK HERE  for Habitat Scheme information

Pause for thought........suggest land use loopholes under the Habitat Scheme

Arable Stewardship

Arable Stewardship is a MAFF pilot scheme (no uptake figures available at present) which offers payments to arable farmers to manage their land in ways which will encourage wildlife. The scheme aims to help farmers recreate and enhance wildlife habitats in arable areas. Arable Stewardship will also test whether certain arable farming methods can help to do this. The scheme has been designed to achieve these benefits whilst recognising the practicalities of commercial arable farming.

Payments and Options

The list of payments and options is contained on a four page document available from MAFF and rewards sound rotational practice. For example a payment of 520/ha is available for fallow following overwintered cereals and 580/ha for limited pesticide use in cereals or linseed, followed by overwintered stubble, and a spring/summer fallow. Payments in excess of 600/ha are available for certain cropping practices and rotations, the scheme also offers aid for fencing and wall maintenance, conservation strips and headlands, tree protection and use of 'wildlife seed mixtures'.

CLICK HERE for information from the DEFRA Website. 

Countryside Access Scheme

This is a voluntary scheme operating in England and Wales with the objective of encouraging farmers to provide public access to suitable set-aside land for walking and quiet recreation. The scheme provides for permissive access only and does not create permanent rights of way.

CLICK HERE for full details

Pause for thought........The general public 'uncompromising' when exercising their 'right to roam'?

Should farmers be allowed to reposition footpaths across their land, for instance, if the pathway is through the centre of a field?

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