Land transfers in Environmental Stewardship

2014 is a transition year for agri-environment schemes, before the new environmental land management scheme starts in 2016.

Natural England has put arrangements in place to allow land transfers. The principles behind land transfers have changed:

  • No new land entered into ELS (unless the land is eligible for ELS under the transition arrangements for 2014)
  • No extension to the term of the existing ELS agreements beyond the current end date.

So what does this mean?

It reduces the options available for farm businesses to incorporate transferred in land in to the business. The only option available will be to carry on the existing agreement on the acquired land for its remaining term. This will be separate from any pre-existing environmental stewardship agreement that you may have.

Where you take on land forming a part, but not the whole, of an existing environmental stewardship agreement, you may need to add new options to the land to meet the points target i.e. the land parcel transferred in with an existing ELS agreement will need to achieve 30 points per ha on that parcel of land. Likewise the partial agreement remaining on the original farm will need to meet 30 points per ha.

Natural England has provided a detailed Q&A on land transfers which answers relevant questions. You should fully understand the impacts of these changes before carrying out a land transfer as failure to get this right could trigger penalties on the farmer transferring out land i.e. selling.

Agri-environment agreements require agreement holders to notify Natural England of a land transfer within three months. This is currently done through submitting an LTA1 to Natural England. The LTA1 form and further advice can be obtained from Natural England’s customer services team on 030 006 000 11.