Natural England - Higher Level Stewardship

Higher Level Stewardship

HLS aims to deliver significant environmental benefits in priority areas. It involves more complex environmental management requiring support and advice from our local advisers, to develop a comprehensive agreement that achieves a wide range of environmental benefits over a longer period of time. HLS agreements last for ten years.

When you apply for HLS you must also apply for, or already be in, ELS, OELS or Uplands ELS  (in all but a few specific situations).

Quick link to how to get registered and apply.

All relevant handbooks

Changes from 1 January 2013
The Making Environmental Stewardship More Effective (MESME) webpage provides details on new ELS options which will be available from 1 January 2013. There will also be changes to some existing ELS option prescriptions and points values from 1 January 2013. The new options and changes have yet to receive formal EU Commission approval. These changes will be relevant to HLS agreements which are underpinned with ELS/OELS options

Key information

HLS is being targeted in 110 areas across England. These target areas are where Natural England are seeking the most environmental benefits from HLS agreements for wildlife, landscape, the historic environment and resource protection. Outside these areas, we will consider all other applications depending upon the current national priorities and features present on the particular holding.

Depending on the features on your farm, there are a variety of HLS management options and capital items which may be suitable to deliver the best environmental outcomes. But, unlike ELS, the level of payments you receive depends on the number of options you are able to deliver. As mentioned, HLS is a targeted and competitive scheme that is only available to farmers and land managers in particular areas of the country or with particular high priority features on their holding.

From 1 July 2011, a 3-Tier application process is in place for HLS – refer to the 3-Tier HLS FAQ webpage for more information. It is important that you contact one of our advisers before proceeding with an HLS application to discuss the likely content and success of an application.

  • Chris Dowse, Estate manager © Natural England

    Higher Level Stewardship case study

    Sir Richard Sutton's Settled Estates in Lincolnshire entered into an Organic Entry Level/Higher Level Stewardship agreement in February 2008. Chris Dowse, manager of the 3,000 hectare arable estate, says:

    "The application process for both OELS and HLS was made very much easier by the help and support of the Natural England advisers."