Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE)

If you are a farmer, grower, forester, land owner, rural business or part of a rural community, you can potentially benefit from funding provided through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).

The funding is managed by three different agencies, depending on the activity being proposed.

Eight Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) administer RDPE-funded grants for economic and social projects, which aim to increase the competitiveness of farmers, improve the quality of rural life and diversify the rural economy.

Natural England administers the RDPE-funded Environmental Stewardship Scheme and the Energy Crops Scheme (more information provided below).

The Forestry Commission administers the RDPE-funded English Woodland Grant Scheme (more information provided below).

The Rural Payment Agency (RPA) administers the RDPE-funded Single Payment Scheme (SPS) (more information provided below).

Cross Compliance

In England, farmers claiming the Single Payment and other direct payments are responsible for understanding and meeting cross compliance requirements.  A helpline provides technical advice that can help farmers, other land managers, their advisers and agricultural contractors meet these requirements.   The helpline also provides information on advice events, and you can use it to book a place on any in your area. Helpline: 0845 345 1302

For more guidance on cross compliance please visit the Defra website. 

National funding opportunities

1. The Single Payment Scheme (SPS) - introduced in 2003 as part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform and is now the European Union's main agricultural subsidy scheme. If you are a farmer in England who meets the SPS rules, you can apply to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) for SPS payments. For more information visit the Defra website, which provides detailed but easy to follow guides on SPS. To go directly to the RPA website please click here

Or call the RPA Single Payment Scheme helpline on 0845 603 7777.

2. Environmental Stewardship (ES) is an agri-environmental schemes funded by Natural England. Farmers and other land managers in England receive payment for delivering effective environmental management on their land.

Environmental Stewardship has three elements:

Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) provides a straightforward approach to supporting the good stewardship of the countryside through simple and effective land management. It is a point-based scheme that gives farmers a number of options for managing their land in an environmentally-sensitive way. It is open to all farmers and landowners. Applications can be made online.  Agreements last for 5 years.
Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS) is the organic strand of ELS. It is geared to organic and organic/conventional mixed farming systems and is open to all farmers not receiving Organic Farming Scheme aid. Agreements last for 5 years.
Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) builds on ELS and OELS but concentrates on the more complex types of management where land managers need advice and support and where agreements will be tailored to local circumstances. HLS applications will be assessed against specific local targets and agreements will be offered where they meet these targets.  Agreements last for 10 years.  The HLS applications are now processed in a 3 tier system with less complex holdings fast tracked by Natural England advisors.

For more information visit the Natural England website.
For more information about HLS target areas click here

3. Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS) - £20 million fund to help farming, forestry and horticultural businesses to become more efficient at using resources. The scheme aims to help businesses to become more competitive and more profitable, whilst reducing the impact of farming on the environment.  Farmers, foresters, woodland owners, agricultural contractors and horticulturalists can apply for grants of up to 40% of project costs, awarding grants between £2,500 to £25,000 to invest in green projects, new machinery and improvements to animal health and welfare. Scheme opened 16 November 2011 and is due to close December 2013.  For more information on the RDPE network website click here or to view the information leaflet click here

4. Energy Crops Scheme - provides grants to land managers to plant miscanthus (elephant grass) and Short Rotation Coppice crops to produce biomass energy. Energy crops are used as a substitute for fossil fuels and can help mitigate climate change. For more information click here 

5. England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative - is a joint venture between Natural England and the Environment Agency. In Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire this covers two catchments: Upper Great Ouse and River Nene.  There are no catchments in Cambridgeshire. It delivers practical solutions and targeted advice to enable farmers and land managers to take action to protect water bodies and the wider environment. There is a capital grants fund available to support the improvement or installation of facilities that would benefit water quality by reducing diffuse pollution from agriculture. This could include fencing off water course or installing cattle drinkers. Catchment Sensitive Farming Officers are also available for advisory visits and to help with applications.  It is expected that the funding mechanism will allow £7 million in capital grants to be awarded this year in 2014/15.    The scheme is open to applications between 1 February 2014 and 31 March 2014 for 2014/15 period. 

For more information click here

6. The English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS) is the Forestry Commission’s main scheme for providing financial support. Its primary objectives are to create and manage woodlands, to sustain and increase the delivery of public benefits. For more information click here

PLEASE NOTE - All applicants and land entering into any of the Rural Development Plan for England (RDPE) land management schemes - Single Payment Scheme (SPS), Environmental Stewardship Scheme (ES) and the English Woodland Grant Scheme - must be registered on the Customer Register (CR) and the Rural Land Register (RLR), respectively. In England it is the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) that maintains the CR and RLR. For more information visit the RPA website.

East of England funding opportunities

The LEADER programme (2008-2013) is a source of funding for rural businesses from the EU and Defra through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). For information about the LEADER programme click here. All funds have been awarded for 2008-2013.  A new programme is due to start January 2015.

Bedfordshire funding opportunities

Chiltern Sustainable Development Fund - this grant scheme, administered by the Chilterns Conservation Board, is available to support projects which bring environmental, social and economic benefits to the Chilterns AONB (covers parts of south Bedfordshire). For more information and to see whether your land is in the Chilterns AONB please click here

Cambridgeshire funding opportunities

Biodiversity Partnership’s Local Grant Scheme - the Biodiversity Partnership has earmarked £10,000 per annum, specifically for capital enhancement work on County Wildlife Sites (CWS). For more information please click here