This Option supports the establishment of short rotation coppice crops, through the planting of willow or poplar cuttings, to help deliver both economic and environment benefits.
What will this achieve?
The planting of new woodland, to be managed as short rotation coppice, will provide an Option for farm diversification that has the economic potential to take advantage of any emerging local woodfuel markets and renewable energy projects.
Creating a substantial source of local produce for woodfuel markets will encourage the movement of cost-effective processing closer to the rural timber resource and help to support associated local businesses.
In addition to the potential economic benefits provided by short rotation coppice, the establishment of this new woodland will contribute to carbon sequestration to support the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Programme.
What you can do?
Plant and establish tree crops of willow or poplar, to be subsequently managed as short rotation coppice on a 2 to 5-year cropping cycle.
Who can apply?
Owners or occupiers of agricultural land.
The minimum eligible block of tree planting is 2 hectares.
At least 10,000 willow or poplar cuttings per hectare must be established and maintained for a period of at least 5 years.
Proposals must demonstrate that they have established an end use for the produce, e.g. evidence of a supply contract, and that the produce will be used to develop a fuel supply for renewable energy products.
All tree planting proposals must comply with the requirements of the UK Forestry Standard.
If your proposals falls above certain minimum-size thresholds and are likely to have a significant effect on the environment, an application for consent under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry)(Scotland) Regulations 1999 may be required.
We will consult local authorities and other statutory organisations about your proposals. We will take their views into account before approving your proposals.
What should you mark on your map(s)
The boundary of the planting area must be accurately drawn on a 1:10000 map and submitted with the proposals
We will provide a contribution to the total costs incurred in establishing the trees as short rotation coppice.
To ensure value for money we require you to provide 2 competitive quotes for any capital items applied for which are based on actual cost. If, however, you are seeking grant support towards something so specialised it is only available through 1 source then we would accept 1 quote. Please see the guidance on quotes and estimates for more information.
Rate of support
The payment rate will be at 40% (50% in Less Favoured Areas) of the actual costs, including the cost of fencing, up to a maximum payment of of £1000 per hectare, based on receipted invoices.
The planting will be subject to inspection once we receive your claim for payment. We will inspect the work to ensure that it accords with the eligibility criteria.
Guidance on Opportunities and optimum sitings for energy crops is available on the Natural England website. These maps are to be used as a tool to provide guidance to those seeking to develop energy crops. They show the potential areas for growing the crops plus the areas where this is not appropriate or care would need to be taken from an environmental point of view. The maps are only indicative and should not be regarded as definitive with respect to individual applications.
1.7 What are the scheme objectives?
To increase the amount of energy crops grown in England, in appropriate locations. Energy crops are used as a substitute for fossil fuels, can contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and help to combat climate change. The Government believes that energy crops can play an essential role in contributing to sustainable development.
What is the minimum amount of land needed?
Your application must comprise a minimum of three hectares, in total. Individual plots must be no less than 0.5 hectares. There is no upper limit on the amount of eligible land that can be entered in the scheme.
Can you plant land in different stages?
You should include all the eligible land that you would like to enter into an agreement in one application. Within this you may phase planting under an agreed plan, for up to three years. Your agreement will cover planting in the later years and you must ensure that the land will be available. Your agreement could then run for between 5 and 8 years.
Is your land eligible?
Generally any land in England is eligible for entry to the scheme. There are however some areas which are not eligible. These areas will be assessed and agreed/checked at the time of the site assessment.
Your land must be registered on the Rural Land Register (RLR)
You will need to enter land parcel details on your application form.
Details of how to register your land on the RLR are available on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) website at http://rpa.defra.gov.uk/rpa/index.nsf/home
Areas which cannot be planted are:
Hard roads and tracks.
Rivers and ponds.
Areas of hard standing.
Public rights of way (PRoW).
Land within 3m (Miscanthus) and 5m (SRC) of PRoWs.
Single Payment Scheme cross compliance buffers alongside field boundaries.
Land in other schemes such as agri-environment schemes. Many of the buffers and margins listed here can be paid for under agri-environment schemes providing they will not be used regularly for vehicular movements.
Designated land such as SSSIs, National and Local Nature Reserves, Scheduled Monuments, Registered Battlefields, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs),Special Protection Areas(SPA), World Heritage Sites and Ramsar Sites.
Land within IDB access buffers alongside IDB ditches and rivers/streams. Check the required width with your IDB.
Above and below utility lines such as water, gas and electricity lines. You should discuss your plans with the relevant utility companies before submitting your application. A 6m strip is likely to be necessary for SRC plantings. Any response received should be attached to your application form.
Where it might be possible but is likely to be undesirable:
Land adjacent to a neighbours land, particularly residential property. You are advised to consult with your neighbour prior to submitting your application. An unplanted buffer of at least 10m is likely to be necessary.
Adjacent to woodland, to prevent shading of the crop. A 10m buffer may be needed.
Vehicle access strips, both along the side of the crop – perhaps 3m, and for vehicle turning at the end of the crop during harvest operations – ensure you leave adequate turning space.
Each case will be treated on its own merits in discussion with the assessor.
You should also consider leaving wildlife strips adjacent to the crop, similar to rides through woodland. These provide the most valuable wildlife habitat areas, for example, adjacent to hedges.
Do you have an energy end-use?
You must be able to demonstrate that you have or will have an energy end-use for the crops.
If you are using enough heat (about £15000 a year) you might qualify for a fully funded biomass boiler in which to burn the crops.
You can also grow energy crops for your own use, e.g. to heat your home or business, but you must be able to demonstrate that you have the capability to do so.
You may be required to provide evidence of the quantities of the crop purchased by the end user. Your obligation to provide this information survives the end date of your ECS agreement.
What are the payments?
The ECS scheme supports the cost of establishment of Miscanthus or Short Rotation Coppice. Payment will be made on the basis of:
50% of Actual costs i.e. suppliers/materials/contractors costs; and/or
50% of On-farm costs i.e. use of own labour and machinery, where applicable.
Actual costs will be incurred for the supply of materials and for specialist contract work such as planting. Receipted invoices are required as proof of this type of expenditure.
On-farm labour and machinery costs, where by definition there are no receipts available, may be claimed. The table below gives an indication of the type of activities that may be claimed as on-farm costs.
An estimate of anticipated on-farm costs is required at application stage and these will be discussed with your NE/FC appraiser during the site visit. The type and rate of chemicals and fertiliser to be used will be agreed and included in your offer letter. A record of actual operations and chemicals used should be kept and submitted with your claim form. You should inform Natural England as soon as possible if there is likely to be any variation between the estimated and actual costs.
Guidance regarding indicative on-farm costs is available from Natural England
Subsoiling (if applicable)
Ring or Cambridge rolling
Rabbit fencing (no existing fence)
Attach rabbit fencing to existing fence Topping in Year 2
Spraying (labour and machinery)
Fertiliser spreading (labour and machinery)
Can I claim Single Farm Payment (SPS) on ECS land?
EU energy aid payment
This is no longer available for new plantings.
Providing the appropriate conditions are fulfilled, you may be able to combine the ECS with other grant schemes. However, this does not apply where you would receive payment twice for the same activity or if the objectives of the schemes conflict. It is your responsibility to check this before applying, but if in doubt consult Natural England
Land in the ECS can count towards the area used to calculate your Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) points target and associated payment, but you may not locate any ELS options on land planted under the ECS (including and ECS paid are of open ground).
Where ECS planting (including paid areas of open ground) is on a part-field basis, ELS options may be located within the land parcel, provided there is no overlap of ELS options with ECS payable areas on the ground.
Boundaries surrounding ECS parcels may be entered into ELS boundary management options.
Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) options must not be located within land parcels covered by planting under an ECS agreement. However, boundaries surrounding ECS parcels may be entered into HLS boundary management options.
Land in the ECS is not eligible for Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS). Land cannot be in both ECS and OELS. It can only be in one of these schemes or the other.
Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) and Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA)
These schemes are closed to new applications. The ECS can be combined with a CSS or ESA agreement provided the land is eligible for both schemes. The planting must be compatible with the land management requirements and prescriptions.
The Habitat Scheme is closed to new applications. It is unlikely that an existing Habitat Scheme agreement can be combined with land planted under the ECS. Please consult Natural England , who will be able to determine your eligibility for ECS and its compatibility with Habitat Scheme objectives.
Woodland Schemes and National Forest Tender Scheme
You cannot include the same land under the ECS as you have under the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS), Woodland Grant Scheme (WGS), Farm Woodland Premium Scheme (FWPS) or the National Forest Tender Scheme. The WGS and FWPS are closed to further applications.
When can I apply? Hurry get your applications in by the end of July 2013 to be sure of meeting the deadline
It will take approximately three months to process applications for Miscanthus and four months for SRC applications; you should therefore time your application accordingly. You can apply at any time during the year. We are unable to guarantee that applications received after 30 September will be approved in time for the next planting season. You are advised to apply well in advance to ensure time for thorough ground preparation, which may improve yields and to allow adequate time to order your planting material.
Only eligible land should be included in your application.
If you do not have access to the internet, you may obtain copies of all applicable forms and guidance from Natural England
Generally, all parties to the agreement should sign and date all documents relating to an application. However, it may be possible for an authorised signatory to sign on your behalf. In the case of companies, any officer of a company who is generally authorised to sign on behalf of that company may sign.
If you are a partnership, one of the partners can sign but he/she must obtain written authorisation from the other partner(s) that he/she is authorised to sign. All the members of the partnership should sign the authorisation. An Agent Authorisation form is available at http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/farming/funding/ecs/default.aspx
Do I need to provide anything else?
Your completed application form must be accompanied by the following:
Evidence that the crop will be used to produce energy
A landlord’s consent form, if appropriate.
A supporting map of the holding which should be a current RLR map or a 1:2500 scale Ordnance Survey map
This will show the area to be planted and surrounding unplanted areas. The relevant unmarked RLR map can be obtained from Natural England
Written partnership authorisation, if appropriate.
Agent authorisation form, if appropriate.
Evidence of consultation with neighbours, utilities and other public bodies e.g. English Heritage, if appropriate.
Where do I send my application?
Send your completed application to Natural England, the address can be found at
Once submitted the application will undergo initial checks to ensure that the form has been correctly completed and that all relevant documents are included. If the application passes the initial checks, you will receive an acknowledgement letter.
Failure to submit all the required information may lead to your application being rejected.
If the application passes the initial checks, it will be subject to further, more detailed administrative checks. This will include a dual funding check and a check against Single Payment Scheme data to confirm that you are not receiving funding for the same purpose from more than one source. Consultations will also take place with interested parties to establish whether the proposals may have adverse environmental effects (see Environmental Appraisal and Site Visit below). Regional sustainability policies will also be considered.
The application will then pass to a local Natural England/Forestry Commission advisor who will conduct an environmental appraisal including a site visit, to discuss your application.
Once all of the checks, consultations and site visits have been completed, you should normally receive an offer letter or a rejection letter within three months of your application being submitted for Miscanthus and four months for SRC.
You will need to sign and return the offer letter to Natural England within one month. The signed Offer Letter forms your legally binding agreement with Natural England , and will include a planting design, based on the environmental appraisal.
Environmental Appraisal and Site Visit
When processing your application we will decide whether your proposal will have a significant impact on the environment. In some cases, this may require an additional Environmental Impact Assessment.
The appraisal will consider each plot in the application on an individual basis, and will review the impact that the planting may have.
Examples would be:
People – the effect on surrounding dwellings, shading, obstruction of views, effects on road safety/visibility, machinery access etc.;
Biodiversity – how planting will affect adjacent habitats, and whether planting can be undertaken to assist if not improve biodiversity;•
Historic Environment – presence of Listed Buildings, archaeological sites, features and landscapes, as well as the effects on the setting of Scheduled Monuments, Registered Parkland, Historic Battlefields and Conservation Areas;
Farm Vehicle Access – we will consider this in terms of the planting and harvesting of the crop;
Soil –suitability as a growing medium, review of previous cropping history;
Recreation – we will consider two main areas: rights of way within the field parcels and adjacent land uses;
Land Use and Landscape – impact of proposed plantings on surrounding landscape and land use;
Water/Drainage – we will consider the impacts on water resources and water quality.
Flood plain — Will the planting affect flood water flow?
Will flooding affect establishment, growth and harvest of the crop?
This list is not exhaustive.
Environmental Impact Assessment
Short Rotation Coppice
Applications for the planting of SRC are subject to the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999. These Regulations require anyone carrying out a project involving afforestation above certain thresholds to obtain consent from the Forestry Commission before work can proceed. Further information can be found at Annex C. The Forestry Commission (FC) administer public registers for new planting of short rotation coppice and decide whether an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required; this includes areas greater than 5ha anywhere and greater than 2 ha within National Parks. The FC will discuss the planting design during the site visit and agree the proportion and location of open ground. After consultation, the FC will make a recommendation to approve or reject the application to Natural England.
Applications for the planting of Miscanthus may be subject to the Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2006. These Regulations protect uncultivated land and semi-natural areas from being damaged by agricultural work, which would include the planting of Miscanthus. Hence, such plantings on uncultivated land or semi-natural areas will be interpreted under the Regulations as increasing the productivity for agriculture and will need to be assessed by Natural England for the likelihood of significant environmental effects. Further information can be obtained from the
You can withdraw your application at any time before you sign and return the Offer Letter. Please contact Natural England straight away if you decide to withdraw.
Your agreement with Natural England will start once you have signed and returned your Offer Letter. Any preparation work started before the grant offer is approved and offer letter returned will be ineligible for funding and the application will be rejected.
How long is the agreement?
Your agreement will normally run for five years but may be extended further if you have included phased planting.
What management requirements must I meet?
You will have to meet certain minimum environmental standards.
You must plant and manage your energy crops in accordance with the terms of your agreement including any special conditions and the relevant best practice guidance which is available to download from the Energy Crops pages on the Natural England website at: http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/farming/funding/ecs/default.aspx
Growing Short Rotation Coppice
Planting and Growing Miscanthus
Forestry Commission Guideline on Short Rotation Coppice in the Landscape
Forestry Commission Guideline on Establishment and Management of Short Rotation Coppice
The SPS cross compliance requirement not to cultivate land within 2 metres of the centre of a hedgerow or watercourse (and within 1 metre of the top of the bank of the watercourse) applies to all ECS plantings.
Using the correct planting material is very important. There is advice in the best practice guidance. You should not use reclaimed (farm-saved) material for replanting SRC unless you have the consent of the breeder (EC Regulation No. 2100/94). For plant health reasons, Miscanthus rhizomes should only come from European or other Mediterranean countries.
When do I claim the grant?
When we have received your signed agreement, we will send you a claim invite letter and claim form. You may submit a claim when planting has occurred, and in any case need to submit the claim by 15 May in the year following planting. Operations necessary in the second year to establish a successful crop, such as weed control, may also be eligible for grant – please consult your Natural England assessor for further information. Any second year costs incurred need to be claimed for in the second year.
Natural England would expect the applicant to arrange for partial or complete replanting by the supplier should an insufficient establishment take place. You are required to make every effort to establish the crop. If you have persistent problems establishing the crop, please contact Natural England, details at Annex A.
Natural England anticipates establishment of approximately 80% of crop coverage at the end of 5 years.
How is the grant paid?
Payment is by direct credit (BACS). If you already receive grant and subsidy payments from Natural England by direct credit then your payments under this Scheme will be made by this method.
If not, please contact the RPA Customer Registration Section on 0845 6037777 and they will arrange for a form to be sent.
Payments are credited direct to your bank account and you will receive a note from the RPA advising you that payment has been made.
What records should I keep?
You must retain all records relating to your application and agreement for 6 years from the date of the final payment of grant.
5.8 Can I change my agreement?
You are required to fulfil your obligations for the full term of your agreement, but there are some circumstances where it may be possible to change aspects of your agreement (see Section 6).
You must contact Natural England immediately if you wish to change your agreement, have difficulties complying with it or do not intend to proceed with it. You may be subject to recovery action and/or penalties if you have received a payment.
It is not possible to add land to an existing agreement. You must submit another application so that the suitability of the land can be assessed.
What if I let, sell or transfer the land?
If the agreement has expired, the land is not subject to scheme conditions.
If the land is still under agreement, you should tell potential occupiers about the scheme conditions well in advance. The new occupier may apply to have the agreement transferred to them and receive any subsequent payments. However, the transferred land must be a minimum of 3 hectares and they must apply within 3 months of assuming occupancy. If this is not the case, you will be in breach of your agreement. If the agreement is not transferred and the land does not remain in the scheme, you will be in breach of your agreement (see Section 6).
Should you transfer only part of the land subject to an agreement, you must ensure that the remaining land is a minimum of 3 hectares. If this is not the case, you will be in breach of your agreement.
If there is to be a change of occupancy, you must tell Natural England as soon as possible and, at the latest, within 3 months of that change.
You may be liable for some aspects of the original agreement even after land has transferred to a new occupier. If you intend to transfer land, you should seek guidance from Natural England who may suggest that you obtain legal advice.
Scheme compliance inspections
You must allow access at any reasonable time to authorised Natural England, RPA, DECC, Defra and Forestry Commission staff or their agents to inspect your land. You may be required to accompany the inspector and to produce any relevant records. Inspections may be unannounced or at short notice.
If you refuse access for inspections, your claim will be rejected. You will be in breach of your agreement and any monies paid will be reclaimed with interest and penalties.
What if I can’t meet my agreement?
You must contact Natural England immediately.
They recognise that there may be abnormal or unforeseeable circumstances outside your control, that you could not avoid by reasonable action, which may prevent compliance with an agreement.
These are known as force majeure circumstances see below Where a breach is due to circumstances beyond your control that could not have been avoided by reasonable action, the Secretary of State has discretion not to take enforcement action to recover or withhold payments. In order for ‘force majeure’ to be taken into account, you must have notified your Natural England office of the ‘force majeure’ event in writing within 10 working days of you, or your representative, being in a position to do so. Please note that these categories are very narrow and cover only the most exceptional circumstances.
If you have any concerns about the establishment of the crop at any time after planting, you should contact the ECS team (see contact details at Annex A).
Financial or commercial considerations are not considered to be force majeure for the purposes of this scheme.
Examples of ‘force majeure’ are:
death of the agreement holder;
long-term incapacity of the agreement holder;
expropriation through compulsory purchase of a large part of the land provided this could not be anticipated when the agreement was signed;
severe natural disaster gravely affecting the land;
accidental destruction of livestock buildings on the land;
an epizootic disease (such as foot and mouth disease) affecting part or all the agreement holder’s livestock.
If it is agreed that force majeure applies, penalties may not be imposed.
What are the penalties for non-compliance?
The system of penalties for non-compliance with the terms of your agreement is based on the requirements of EC Commission Regulation No. 1975/2006, Article 16. Power to withhold payments, recover part or all of payments already made, and to terminate the agreement are included. In the event of recovery of payments, interest will be levied for the period between payment and reimbursement.
Where the claimed area is higher than the found area, and for cases where ineligible areas have been included in the claimed amounts, all payments and calculations will be based on the eligible and found amount, with the following penalties applied to the total of grant in any year:
Recovery and Penalty to be applied
Less than or equal to 3% of the found amount.
Payment to be reduced or recovered to the found amount. No additional penalty to apply.
More than 3% of the found amount.
Payment to be reduced or recovered to the found amount. An additional penalty equal to the discrepancy must be applied, but to a maximum of the remaining sums paid plus 10% of the sums paid or payable.
However, no additional penalty shall be applied if the beneficiary can demonstrate that they are not at fault for the inclusion of the ineligible area. ie pay back the recovery amount, but no penalty to be applied.
Where breaches are found in relation to scheme prescriptions, such as the area or length of a buffer required, or a failure to manage the land in accordance with other prescriptions, the penalty regime above will be applied where possible.
Natural England will consider each case individually where it is not possible to ascribe a value for which the above penalties could be calculated, or where it is not clear how the penalty should be applied. In all cases, the penalty applied will be based on the extent, severity, and permanence of the breach and will result in a proportionate outcome.
Where agreement holders are found to have made false declarations through serious negligence, they will be disqualified from applying for the ECS and possibly other schemes in the calendar year in question. Where it is found that a false declaration has been made intentionally, the disqualification period will extend to the following calendar year. Natural England can take enforcement action if there has been a false statement.
The making of a false statement constitutes a criminal offence and any resultant prosecution could lead to imprisonment, the imposition of a fine or both.
Can I Appeal?
If you are unhappy with the decisions that we have taken in respect of your application or agreement, you should write to the Customer Service Team Manager at your Natural England office, who will ensure that your case is properly investigated and advise you of the procedure to be followed.
Where the issue cannot be resolved within the team that originally handled your case, the Customer Service manager will ask a senior manager, who has not been involved in your agreement, to review your case. The adviser will consider any points you have raised and report to the Customer Service Team manager with their view on the steps proposed to resolve the dispute.
If you remain dissatisfied with the decision of the senior manager, you can have the matter referred to an independent person of body, nominated by use, for further consideration.
How do I make a complaint?
If you are unhappy about the way a member of staff has dealt with you, or with the level of service you have received, you are very welcome to use our complaints procedure, details of which are available below, or via our website: http://www.naturalengland.org.uk.