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03/03/2005

Defra launches farmland conservation scheme

A new scheme enabling English farmers to be paid for environmental work on their farms is to be launched in the spring.

The Environmental Stewardship Scheme, which is funded by the European Union (EU) and the government, will enable farmers to earn up to £30 per hectare for carrying out work such as maintaining hedgerows, leaving conservation strips around fields and creating beetle banks.

The new scheme aims to address several important countryside issues, such as the decline in species, such as farmland birds, protection of the landscape character and historic environment and reduction of diffuse pollution, caused by nitrate pollution and nutrient leaching.

Environment Minister Elliot Morley, said: "This is excellent news for farmers, the environment and the general public. It is certain to have a hugely beneficial effect on improving habitats for bird and wildlife species, increasing their numbers and repairing populations damaged by intensive farming activities. It will also make a major and visible impact on rural landscapes; restoring wetlands, heather moorland and replacing lost hedgerows. In turn, farmers will get the credit they deserve for their key role in protecting and enhancing the farmed environment, creating a countryside that we can all enjoy."

The Environmental Stewardship Scheme has been welcomed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Birds (RSPB).

Application packs, which will contain full details of the scheme, will be available immediately after the scheme's launch.

(KMcA/SP)

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