Take advantage of extra environmental funding opportunities

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Following on from the success of the recent Severn Trent Environmental Protection Scheme (STEPS), the water company has opened two additional funding opportunities for growers to apply for this spring. 
Some farmers missed out on the winter round of STEPS applications, so Severn Trent is providing another opportunity to receive up to £5,000 of match funding to protect the environment and enhance habitats. In addition to this, growers can also apply for the Boost for Biodiversity scheme for the chance to receive a share of £200,000. 
Jodie Rettino, Severn Trent catchment and biodiversity lead, outlined the two opportunities and how they can be applied for.
“Farmers in priority catchments can choose from a specially selected pre-defined list of water quality funding options such as fencing, sprayer washdown areas and cover crops,” she said. “On top of these, there are also several biodiversity choices available, including wildflower meadow creation, margin planting and pond management. Unlike the previous round of STEPS, farmers won’t need to apply for a water quality option to qualify for a biodiversity grant and they can come up with their own innovative ideas that aren’t included on the set option list.”
One farmer, who has already taken advantage of the STEPS biodiversity funding to plant seven hectares of herbal leys, is Wojtek Behnke, from Aqualate Estate in Shropshire. “Environmental protection is close to our hearts and we’re always looking for ways to improve habitats, so a STEPS grant was the perfect option.
“Once fully established, the leys will be ideal for fattening lambs. But the bespoke mix we’ve chosen includes deep rooting and nitrogen fixing varieties, to improve soil structure and drainage, while providing excellent habitats for pollinators,” he says.
How to apply for STEPS:
•    Find out if you’re in a priority catchment www.stwater.co.uk/catchment 
•    Read the STEPS options list to find out about the available options www.stwater.co.uk/steps
•    If needed, speak to your local agricultural advisor for support
•    Submit your application between 15 May and 22 June www.stwater.co.uk/steps 
Boost for Biodiversity 
Jodie explains that all farmers and other organisations in the Severn Trent region can apply for the Boost for Biodiversity scheme, which is a great option if they are not eligible for STEPS. This is part of the company’s Great Big Nature Boost strategy, which has an ambitious target of enhancing 5,000ha by 2027. 
“The great thing about this scheme is that it gives applicants the creative freedom to come up with unique ideas tailored to enhance and improve habitats in their area. There’s a funding pot of £200,000 and no set limit to how much you can apply for; we’re open to any ideas, no matter how ambitious.” 
Applications will be scored using set criteria, including size of area improved, number of additional benefits, value for money and contribution to improved water quality.
Jodie explains that the top scoring candidates will be awarded with a grant to support their project. “Normally we’d hold a Dragons’ Den style pitch to give the successful applicants a chance to increase their funding. But with the current pandemic and uncertainty around when restrictions will be lifted, we’re investigating ways to hold this element of the scheme virtually.
“However, if you’re considering a project spanning an area over 50ha, please get in touch with the Severn Trent team to find out how we can create a bespoke partnership package to support your project,” she adds.
How to apply:
•    Take a look at the success stories on the Severn Trent website for inspiration
•    Think about how you could improve biodiversity on your farm – the bigger the idea, the better
•    Visit www.stwater.co.uk/about-us/environment/biodiversity/boost-for-biodiversity/ to download an application form
•    Submit your form to ecologymatters@severntrent.co.uk by June 12th.