After DEFRA announced last Wednesday that Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) funding would be increased by 80 per cent, a leaked internal email sent by Natural England to its own advisors revealed that the HLS budget for this year has in fact been reduced and the scheme suspended until 1 April 2011. According to the memo, spending on HLS, which promotes wildlife-friendly land management, will increase by 80 per cent compared with the current year, but only in 2013 or 2014.

Shooting and conservation organisations, which had been unanimous in their praise of the extra funding for HLS, were left in some confusion by the leaked memo. The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust?s Dr Alastair Leake said: ?Unfortunately, it looks as if anyone who was about to start on an HLS scheme will have to wait until April for payment, but the indications are that schemes will continue next spring and thereafter there will be some kind of increase in funding, which should be welcomed.?

At the time of going to press, the exact implications for applicants to HLS are yet to be confirmed but it seems Entry Level Stewardship schemes will continue to be open to all. Other parts of the Government?s spending review were welcomed by shooting groups. DEFRA?s planned reduction of red tape for food producers was well received by those in the game industry.

The rest of this article appears in 27th October issue of Shooting Times.

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