I have started work as the Programme Manager for the 'Colne Valley - Landscape on the Edge' LPS (Development Stage). One of the projects being planned is a conservation grazing project. This may entail such aspects as stock purchase, preparation of sites, infrastructure installation (fencing, gates, water supply, stock housing), stock movement and meat marketing - essentially leading to management of a herd of cattle being shared between different landowners. I would like to hear from anyone who has done/is planning something similar and how you tackled/are tackling it particularly with regard to any considerations/advice you had been given on State Aid. I ask because one of my former employers attempted to put together a bid to create a similar scheme in the south-east and found State Aid to be too restrictive to proceed under the HLF LPS.
Here's the contact that was valid 3 years ago together with my notes at the time. Mr Marr was very helpful so I hope he's still in post! If not Defra will someone else in place with responsiblity to advise.
Marr, Neil (EUS&E) [neil.marr@DEFRA.gsi.gov.uk]
Must contact him if any grant for agricultural purposes (eg repairing barn) is over 7500 Euros in any rolling 3 year period.
Neil Marr was at Defra but left some years ago. Defra now has a tiny team dedicated to state aid and are unable to give the rapid response servcie we used to have. HLF had a meeting with Defra officials last week to discuss state aid and all our grant programmes including LP. I'm just checking with colleagues now but I think things may have just got a whole lot easier. Keep your eyes peeled for my next post, although it may take a day or so, as I need to clear it with our state aid expert.
We have just submitted our Stage Two application, which includes a Conservation Grazing project. We completed a pilot Conservation Grazing project during the Development stage and therefore have experience of planning the sites, competitive tenders for fencing, purchase of water bowsers, obtaining stock (Exmoor ponies for us) and working with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust who have applied for Countryside Stewardship funding. We dealt with Ahmed Azam at DEFRA (Ahmed.Azam@defra.gsi.gov.uk) but as he didn't have much time to review our projects, he suggested using a consultant. We commissioned Nicole Robins of Oxera (Nicole.Robins@Oxera.com) who is a consultant specialising in State Aid and she duly presented us with an excellent document summarising that our programme has no state aid issues.
Thanks Sue. That is very similar to our legal guidance too in that there is new EU case law and a new General Block Exemption that we think makes things simpler in relation to using HLF funds. I'm running something past out state aid legal expert and should be able to post an HLF position on state aid in LPs on Monday. We will also be updating guidance too.
In the meantime Sue would you be able to send me a copy of your legal advice so we can compare notes with ours? (email@example.com).
Thanks all for your patience.
I've now heard back from our State aid legal adviser who has replied saying:-
Following from your query HLF suggests you consider the Notice on the Notion of State aid (NoSA) and the 2014 General Block Exemption Regulation (EC) No. 651/2014 (”GBER”), in particular Article 53 thereof for culture and heritage conservation. These two elements offer a means for State aid exemption without needing an individual UK decision for heritage and culture should your project fit within such exemption routes. This is very much in line with the view that Sue Middleton has also received via external legal advice as above.
Please note it is your responsibility to check whether State aid clearance is required. When developing your application, it is important that you consider and, if necessary, take independent advice on State aid regulations. You should seek legal advice if you are unsure whether your project will require clearance.
Hope that helps.
Sorry, I'm still confused by this.
Are you saying that a block exemption for culture and heritage conservation exists and therefore any project fitting these criteria is automatically exempt, but it is still our responsibility as individual LP scheme to consider/take advice and check if we need to get clearance?
As an AONB partnership we are hoping that the renewal of a block exemption that the National Association of AONBs is negotiating (similar to that which exists for the national parks) will include exemption for all HLF funded projects, including our developing LP scheme - presumably under that we wouldn't have to check?
hoping you can clarify
Pendle Hill LPS