Natural England Facilitation Fund

The Natural England Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund supports people and organisations that bring farmers, foresters, and other land managers together to improve the local natural environment at a landscape scale. This landscape-scale approach can cover land under existing agri-environment and forestry/woodland agreements, common land, and land not currently covered by a scheme. It builds on the principles of partnership working to deliver environmental benefits. The facilitators of over a hundred groups in England are currently funded this way. All the information can be found here.

  • Introduced in 2015 with four application windows since
  • Currently a three-year contract
  • Funds the vast majority of groups
  • Requires a minimum farmland area of 2,000ha, though areas below this may be considered where holdings are smaller than average
  • Competitive (number of offers dependent on funding secured)
  • If this route is taken, the group must choose target species/habitats based on the Countryside Stewardship Statement of Priorities for their area
  • Progress reports, timesheets, workplans and feedback are required to be sent to NE

Independent funding ideas

Some groups choose to seek independent funding. This might be because they did not get offered an agreement in the Facilitation Fund (due to the competitive nature of the fund), or it might be to pursue more autonomy and creativity in their activities. Whatever the reason, here are some ideas and examples of how groups have funded their facilitators and paid costs.

  • Farmer contributions into a shared bank account/facilitator organisation cost centre
    – Farmers themselves contribute an agreed amount for a set number of years
    – For example 40p/acre for three years (this is used by several clusters in England)
  • Sponsorship by relevant companies e.g. seed merchants, agricultural machinery
  • Water company ecosystem services funds
  • Charitable trusts and individuals
  • Corporation funds for environmental projects e.g. banks, retail
  • Biodiversity offsetting & natural capital traders (see below)

Natural capital marketplaces

Natural capital can be defined as ‘the world’s stocks of natural assets, that include geology, soil, air, water, and all living things’. It is from this natural capital that humans derive a wide range of services, often called ecosystem services, for example clean drinking water. The term ‘natural capital’ is an extension of the economic notion of capital to the goods and services provided by the natural environment. Land owners and managers possess natural capital, which can be assessed and traded, either individually or on a landscape scale. Many companies and initiatives are emerging to facilitate this natural capital marketplace and ensure that funding from the private sector flows to places where it is needed for environmental conservation. Some are listed below.