Important new Countryside Stewardship fencing guidelines announced

The introduction of new fencing guidelines for Countryside Stewardship (CS) has been described as a “victory for common sense” by English farmers.

Following a period of intense lobbying by leading fencing supplier McVeigh Parker; from early February farmers and landowners applications for Mid and High Tier Grants can now include the use of metal fencing posts alongside existing treated timber. This applies to Countryside Stewardship Schemes from the 2022 application round, for agreements starting in 2023, plus you can also use the stronger stiffstay netting which allows you 4.5m intermediate spacing.

Since the banning of CCA (Copper Chrome Arsenic) timber treatment in 2006, farmers and landowners have complained about the longevity of timber fence posts, often describing how fence posts become rotten after as little as 5 years.  Until now Defra and the RPA have effectively banned alternative materials including galvanised steel.

Fencing contractors too had expressed their own frustration.  A survey last year by the Association of Fencing Industries found that over 90% of the 200-plus contractors taking part had experienced post “failures” since 2012, despite claims from manufacturers that they should last for at least 15 years.

McVeigh Parker enlisted the support of organisations including NFU, FWAG, CLA and RSPB to show Defra that farmers are looking for longer-lasting and better value options such as the award-winning Triple X fencing system which has stormed the market since its introduction in 2014 and comes with a 30-year guarantee.

Until now, CS provisions for fencing and netting have insisted on the use of softwood timber “that is fully peeled, coated with wood preservative and pressure treated, or treated with an approved preservative” only. For this, farmers could claim between £4.00 and £4.90 per metre, subject to several other conditions, such as post diameter and fence height.

Following extensive discussions with Defra, Secretary of State George Eustice wrote, “We have noted the matters raised by stakeholders and I have agreed that people can choose metal fencing over wooden fencing in the CS scheme should they wish.”

McVeigh Parker spokesman, Ed Wilkinson described the news as, “a great result for farmers and landowners, for contractors and for the taxpayer. Now farmers have a proper and fair choice.  Instead of spending time mending and replacing old fencing, they now have the option to choose a guaranteed 30-year fence which is easier to install and requires minimal maintenance.”

Likewise, Archie Stover, who farms 200 acres in Dorset, commented, “I am so pleased that the rules for funding have been changed.  We have been really impressed with metal fencing for a long time but not being able to get grant funding has been a real frustration.  This is great news and a victory for common sense.”

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