DAVID FROST says: In a word, complicated. Different rules apply depending on whether you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland because agriculture is a devolved responsibility. The rules may change from year to year and what you can do is dependent on the time of year.
The following is a brief summary of the English situation based on the 2006 edition of the guidance issued by DEFRA. If you need the full details do a search on set-aside on the DEFRA or equivalent web site.
The set-aside period starts on January 15 and finishes on August 31, so the rules only apply between these dates. It’s not necessary to put whole fields into set-aside, so it may be difficult for the layman to know what in a field is set-aside and what is not.
As far as shooting is concerned you may encourage wild game and may shoot over set-aside land. However, you must not use set-aside land to rear birds for a commercial shoot or to establish new commercial shooting facilities.
One of the aims of set-aside is to maintain green cover as a habitat for birds etc so you should avoid doing anything that might damage the cover or endanger nesting birds.
You are allowed to establish five metre-wide vehicle tracks to facilitate access. This is, of necessity, a simplistic answer – but without knowing the full circumstances of your situation it isn’t possible to be more precise.
Got a question? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or Sporting Gun, PO Box 157, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 9FU