HLS - 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.
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.
SSSI - Sites of Special Scientific Interest
There are over 4,000 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in England, covering around 7% of the country's land area. Over half of these sites, by area, are internationally important for their wildlife, and designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) or Ramsar sites. Many SSSIs are also National Nature Reserves (NNRs) or Local Nature Reserves (LNRs).
SSSIs are the country's very best wildlife and geological sites. They include some of our most spectacular and beautiful habitats - large wetlands teeming with waders and waterfowl, winding chalk rivers, gorse and heather-clad heathlands, flower-rich meadows, windswept shingle beaches and remote uplands moorland and peat bog.
It is essential to preserve our remaining natural heritage for future generations. Wildlife and geological features are under pressure from development, pollution, climate change and unsustainable land management. SSSIs are important as they support plants and animals that find it more difficult to survive in the wider countryside. Protecting and managing SSSIs is a shared responsibility, and an investment for the benefit of future generations.
The unique and varied habitats of SSSIs have developed over hundreds of years through management practices such as grazing and forestry, and need active management to maintain their conservation interest. Natural England works with over 26,000 separate owners and land managers, who work very hard to conserve these important sites. Maintaining goodwill and building upon the enthusiasm, knowledge and interest of owners is vital to successfully manage these nationally important sites.