The latest round of Countryside Stewardship funding will include grants for woodland creation and reduction of flood risk, the Government has confirmed.Nearly £20 million will soon be made available for agri-environment agreements to help farmers and land managers protect wildlife, create new habitats and reduce flood risk.In October, the Chancellor guaranteed funding for Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) projects, agreed before the UK leaves the EU, providing they are good value for money and are in line with domestic strategic priorities. This is in addition to guarantees for existing projects and those due to start in 2017.Farming Minister George Eustice confirmed details of Countryside Stewardship elements opening shortly, which includes woodland creation and woodland planning grants, and a new flood action facilitation fund to help land owners create natural flood management solutions.He said: "The Countryside Stewardship scheme plays a crucial role in enhancing our environment – conserving and restoring habitats to help wildlife recover, creating woodlands to improve air quality and reduce flood risk, and improving our landscapes to increase productivity and resilience. I encourage farmers and land owners across the country to apply."Woodland creation and planning grantsFarmers and land managers are encouraged to apply for funding to support woodland creation and the long-term management of forests.Around £17 million will be made available for the Woodland Creation Grant and the Woodland Planning Grant, which will be used to expand and manage woodland – working towards the shared government and sector ambition to achieve 12% woodland cover in England by 2060.The fund opens on 3 January and Woodland Creation applications are available for download. Woodland Planning application forms will be available shortly.
Flood action facilitation fundUp to £720,000 will be made available to encourage groups of farmers, foresters and other land managers to develop natural flood management projects on their land.The new funding will help groups of farmers and other land managers in areas hit by last winter’s flooding to work together to reduce flood risk and apply for funding to plant trees, create water meadows and restore rivers to their natural meanders.This fund builds on the government’s commitment to using natural flood management techniques to better protect communities from flooding, with £15 million pledged for natural defences in the Autumn Statement. Previous government-funded schemes have already proven successful – such as the use of ‘leaky dams’ that slow the flow of floodwater used in Pickering in Yorkshire, or better land management upstream in Holnicote in Somerset.