Natural England - How to get started in Higher Level Stewardship

How to get started in Higher Level Stewardship

Step 1: register your land
Step 2: check whether you are eligible for HLS 
Step 3: how to apply

Step 1: register your land

Your land will need to be registered before you apply for a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme.

Contact the Rural Payments Agency to obtain a vendor number – which is a unique trader registration number – allocated by the RPA.

If you have previously claimed payments under the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS), Single Payment Scheme (SPS) or an Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) scheme, you will have already been issued with a vendor number.

Customer Service Centre

Rural Payments Agency
PO Box 1058
Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 4YQ
Phone: 0845 6037777
Or visit their websiteexternal link.

Tenant farmer

If you are a tenant farmer you will need to have management control over the land you farm for 5 years for Entry Level or for 10 years for Higher Level. If you are in doubt, contact your Natural England office.

Step 2: check whether you are eligible for HLS

HLS is discretionary and competitive. We are looking for agreements that are likely to achieve maximum environmental benefit and represent good value for money. HLS is usually combined with ELS, OELS or Uplands ELS options.

  • You must contact your local Natural England office for a pre-application discussion by ringing our central number 0300 060 0011 or

  • You can talk to someone in your area and possibly arrange a free farm visit by contacting your local representative.

As a result of the discussion, you will be notified whether or not your holding is suitable for HLS or whether you ought to submit an application for ELS, OELS or Uplands ELS.

Step 3: how to apply

If the pre-application discussion (see above) results in your holding being deemed suitable for HLS, the next steps are:

  • You will receive an invitation to apply for HLS in a specified financial year, usually with an approximate agreement start date specified.

  • You must send confirmation that you wish to proceed with the application.  If you have not already done so, you may now wish to nominate an agent to act on your behalf.

  • An HLS Pipeline clinic meeting will be held with you/your agent to determine which of the Tier of the 3-Tier HLS Process your application is to be processed under.

  • You will need to obtain an application pack.  To do this call 0300 060 0011 to be put through to your local Natural England customer service office. You will need to provide the following information:

    • your name and correspondence address;

    • your vendor number; and

    • the County Parish Holding (CPH) number/s covering the eligible RLR land parcels you are entering into ELS/OELS.

  • We will then send you a pre-filled application pack. This will need to be returned by post.

  • If your application is to be processed under the Standard Tier or Complex Tier, then you will be responsible for commissioning a Farm Environment Plan (FEP) to inform your HLS application.  If your application is to be processed as a Fast Track Tier application then Natural England will carry out the FEP.  Please see the 3-Tier HLS FAQ for additional information.

Information for land agents

dry stone wall
Quick access to Environmental Stewardship information relevant to you.

Environmental Stewardship forms

All the forms you need to get started for postal application.

Quick link to all Environmental Stewardship levels

Entry Level (ELS), Organic Entry Level(OELS), Uplands Entry Level(UELS), Higher Level(HLS).