SPEAKING TO POLICY-MAKERS and parliamentarians at Westminster in May, the GCT and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CRE) argued for the inclusion of set-aside in new agri-environment schemes, and said the conservation benefits of set-aside should not be lost.

The GCT is also concerned farmers will have less of an incentive to retain set-aside land, in the face of improved grain prices and the increasing popularity of oilseed rape as bio-fuel. The GCT proposes a substitute set-aside be created, and the bulk of it developed as field scale conservation land.

Dr Stephen Tapper, director of policy and public affairs at the GCT, said: “CAP is under review, with the possibility of removing Pillar 1. But attached to this is set-aside land, which represents 482,000 hectares or 5% of all agricultural land. The GCT has turned it into one by developing measures such as special wild bird seed mixtures and it has become a superb refuge for creatures such as brown hares, field mice, bats and songbirds.”