Environmental Stewardship (ES) is the current main funding mechanism by which land managers are encouraged to deliver effective environmental management on their land. Budgets for the schemes operating under ES (Entry Level Stewardship, Organic Entry Level Stewardship and Higher Level Stewardship) are allocated by region, rather than by county. However, in Lancashire there is already a commitment to pay £2,392,757 annually to agreement holders under these schemes. The hon. Member may also wish to note that under the predecessor scheme to ES, Countryside Stewardship, the annual commitment for 2007 in Lancashire is £2,359,098.
We are unable to confirm the regional budgets for ES until we receive approval of the new Rural Development Programme for England (2007 -13) from the European Commission. Negotiations over the final funding package, including the question of voluntary modulation, are continuing. However, in advance of formal approval we are keeping ES open to new applications. Agreements entered into since 1 January 2007 are provisional and are being funded from existing indicative budgets agreed when the scheme was launched.