A project application submitted by the South Devon AONB on behalf of a strong partnership of local land management advisers, supporting 86 land holdings and covering 5000 hectares in the Avon Valley, has been successful in securing European funding.
The brand new Facilitation Fund is competitive, with only 19 bids being successful in the 2015 round and the Avon Valley group is one of two from Devon to be granted funding. The Countryside Stewardship (CS) Facilitation Fund has been set up to support individuals and groups that unite farmers, foresters and other land managers in order to improve the local natural environment at a landscape scale.
The Avon Valley group has the largest membership of those confirmed. Members will be supported by training and advice from a Facilitation Team over the next five years focusing on developing co-operation amongst land managers.
It is hoped this will achieve a higher standard and scale of conservation management than would be possible on individual holdings, benefiting landscape, habitat, species and water quality throughout the mid Avon Valley area and beyond. The South Devon Facilitation Team is led by the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Unit as Co-ordinator, drawing on the specialist and technical expertise of members of the South Devon Conservation Advisers' Forum. This forum comprises a wide variety of conservation advisers from organisations and independent businesses, including FWAG SW, Devon Wildlife Trust, RSPB and the Westcountry Rivers Trust.
Membership of the land management group is very diverse and includes all scales of enterprises from large commercial to smallholders, dairy, mixed, arable, beef and sheep enterprises, woodland, owned and tenanted land, a DWT reserve, Woodland Trust and other charitable trust land holdings
The Avon Valley Facilitation Group participation will benefit farmers, foresters and other land managers in a variety of ways. In particular Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship applications from member landowners within a Facilitation Fund area will score 20% more points, increasing the likelihood of success. There will be free group advice and support with on-farm environmental management, a variety of land management based workshops, events and assistance, support for all members whether currently in a scheme or not, and sign posting to other support and funding opportunities.
Roger English South Devon AONB Project Officer commented “The next five years will be an opportunity to work more closely with land managers in the Avon Valley, supporting farming systems that sustain high nature value farmland and assist in retaining a network of farms with a mix of enterprise types. We are delighted to have helped establish the group and look forward to shaping our programme in consultation with members. We have recently endorsed 15 mid tier Countryside Stewardship applications from members and await with interest the outcomes.”
Further information: Countryside Stewardship Facilitation