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Open Now: Farming in Protected Landscapes is a new grant programme for the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty along with all of the National Parks and other AONBs in England.

Farming in Protected Landscapes is here to focus on People, Place, Climate and Nature outcomes.


The grant programme runs from 2021 to 2024 and the first application window is open now until 31 January 2022. The Kent Downs AONB Unit are supporting Kent Downs farmers, land managers and others to find out more about the programme, how it works, and how to make a successful application so please complete the brief ‘Contact Us’ form if you have an idea for a project or would like more information.

By supporting the farmers, land managers and people who live and work in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we can help protect these exceptional places and support local communities.

Through the programme, farmers and land managers can be supported to carry out projects that

  • Support nature recovery,
  • Mitigate the impacts of climate change,
  • Provide opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and cultural heritage,
  • Support nature-friendly, sustainable farm businesses.

The programme is part of Defra’s Agricultural Transition Plan. It has been developed by Defra with the support of a group of AONB and National Park staff from across the country. It’s a programme of funding for one-off projects covering these areas of work, not an agri-environment scheme.

Applications are open now

Please contact us to find out more and to discuss your application before you apply.

Contact us

The Application Process

There are 7 steps in the Application Process, the Kent Downs AONB team is here to support you throughout to ensure your project idea has the best chance of success:

Step 1: Please read the introductory information on this page for an overview of the programme and eligibility criteria. You can also refer to the more detailed Guidance for Applicants


Step 2: Review the Kent Downs Indicative Projects which provide examples of the types of projects which would be most beneficial for the Kent Downs landscape. These project ideas are not prescriptive and are intended to help you start imagining what might be possible for your own project.


Step 3: Complete the short Contact Us form


Step 4: A Kent Downs AONB Officer will be in touch to discuss within 10 working days to discuss your ideas.


Step 5: If appropriate we will arrange a site visit.


Step 6: You’re now ready to complete the Application Form which will be provided to you over email and submit it to us – we’ll check you’ve provided all the relevant information before proceeding. Please ensure you refer to the Guidance for Applicants when completing the form.


Step 7: Decision: A Farming in Protected Landscape Panel will decide whether your application is successful, whether further information is needed or whether the application is unsuccessful, the panel will provide reasons for its views.


The Farming in Protected Landscapes programme is open to all farmers, land managers and others (including from the private, public and charity sector) in or benefiting the Kent Downs AONB. You can see the Kent Downs AONB Boundary here

  • You must manage all the land included in the application and have control of all the activities you’d like to undertake, or you must have written consent from all parties who have this management and control.
  • Other organisations and individuals can apply, as long as they do this in collaboration with a farmer or land manager, or in support of a farmer or group of farmers.
  • Common land is eligible for support through the Programme. You can apply as a landowner with sole rights, or as a group of commoners acting together.
  • The programme supports activity on any land within the Kent Downs AONB. It can also support activity on other land where projects can demonstrate benefit to the Kent Downs AONB, or the Kent Downs AONB team’s objectives or partnership initiatives. Most of the funding will probably be provided to projects within the Kent Downs AONB Boundary

What the Programme will pay for

The Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme will pay for projects that, in the opinion of the Local Assessment Panel (see below) provide value for money and meet at least one of the outcomes listed below, under four themes.

We’ve also outlined more detailed ideas for Indicative Projects, which would support themes and the vision, aims and principles of the Management Plan 2021-2026.

Two people walking a dog in the countryside in Autumn


• There are more opportunities for people to explore, enjoy and understand the landscape
• There are more opportunities for more diverse audiences to explore, enjoy and understand the landscape
• There is greater public engagement in land management, such as through volunteering
• Farmers and land managers feel increasingly comfortable with providing public goods



• The quality and character of the landscape is reinforced or enhanced
• Historic structures and features are conserved, enhanced or interpreted more effectively
• There is an increase in the resilience of nature friendly sustainable farm businesses, which in turn contributes to a more thriving local economy – must be delivered in balance with and directly linked to other programme outcomes across the four themes.


• More carbon is stored and/or sequestered
• Flood risk is reduced
• Farmers, land managers and the public better understand what different habitats and land uses can store carbon and reduce carbon emissions
• The landscape is more resilient to climate change



• There is a greater area of habitat improved for biodiversity
• There is an increase in biodiversity
• There is greater connectivity between habitats
• Existing habitat is better managed



Your project must also help to deliver the vision, aims and principles of the Kent Downs AONB Management Plan 2021-2026. The Plan is in the final stages of adoption by local authorities and is expected to publish in September 2021.

Here are some examples of projects the programme might support or read our fuller list of Indicative Projects

  • Enhancing important wildlife habitats and promoting connectivity between them.
  • Re-wiggling a straightened watercourse, for the biodiversity and natural flood management benefits this can bring
  • Replacing stiles with gates on public footpaths to promote easier access
  • Creating wader scrapes, or creating or restoring ponds (including dew ponds) to support a variety of wildlife
  • Creating and promoting a series of farm walks across a farm or cluster of farms, providing new access opportunities, links to the rights of way network and interpretation of farming and of the natural and historic features on the land
  • Conserving historic features on a farm or in the wider landscape.


  • Improvements at a key site to enhance disabled access, provide safe access to popular walking routes, or divert access from over-used routes to reduce congestion for visitors and for local residents or to reduce harm to sensitive wildlife
  • Sustainable tourism provision such as new all ability trails, walking trails and on site activities, including e.g. stargazing and dawn chorus walks, providing carefully designed low cost accommodation
  • Supporting a locally-branded food initiative which promotes the links between the product and the landscape in which it is produced
  • Wilding an area of land and promoting natural processes
  • Action to reduce carbon emissions on a farm such as soil management, habitat enhancement and other ‘nature based’ solutions to climate change
  • Whole farm planning for conservation, energy efficiency and economic resilience, including planning across farmer clusters
  • Gathering data and evidence to help inform conservation and farming practice
  • Working with new and underrepresented audiences to enable them to experience the Protected Landscape

Payment rates

  • If an applicant will not make a commercial gain through a project, they could receive up to 100% of the costs.
  • Where an applicant would benefit commercially from a project, they could receive between 40% and 80% of the costs through the Programme, depending on how much commercial benefit the project will give them.
  • The Programme will work alongside – not in competition with – Defra’s existing and new schemes, adding value where it is most needed. If a potential project can be rewarded through those schemes instead, you will be made aware of them.
  • If an activity is equivalent to one under Countryside Stewardship (CS), the Programme payment rate will be the same as the CS rate. If not, we will base Programme funding offers on the projected costs of an activity (with final payments made against evidenced costs).


  • Funding will be awarded to successful applicants throughout the application window, rather than after the window closes, so you should submit your application as soon as it is ready.
  • We will also consider applications for funding in year 2, especially if they aim to begin early in the financial year.
  • Multi-year awards are possible for longer projects. All projects must end by March 2024.

Maintenance agreements

  • Capital infrastructure assets (including, but not limited to, fences, gates, building restoration), should be maintained for 5 years from the date of completion.
  • Machinery assets (for example a brush harvester for grassland restoration) should be maintained for 5 years from the date of purchase.
  • The requirement to maintain natural, cultural and access activities (for example, management of grassland, restoration of a limekiln) delivered as part of programme will cease no later than 1 April 2024.

Application assessment

Applications for over £5000 will be judged by a Local Assessment Panel, this kind of system has been used locally before for the Kent Downs AONB ‘Sustainable Development Fund’.

  • The Local Assessment Panel will be made up of 8 to 12 people.
  • It will include representatives from the Kent Downs AONB, Natural England, representatives from the farming and land management community, and heritage and conservation specialists.
  • We expect that the panel will meet to make decisions every 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Applications for less than £5000 will be decided upon by a senior member of the AONB team (who has no prior knowledge of the project).

More Opportunities for Kent Downs Farmers and Land Managers

In addition to Defra’s programme, farmers and landowners in the Kent Downs can also apply for The EXPERIENCE Development Programmes delivered by Visit Kent and the Kent Downs AONB which will provide expert support for businesses, individuals and organisations to develop new off-season Tourism Experiences.

Our Kent Downs Countryside Experience Development Programme welcomes applications from rural tourism businesses that live or work in the Kent Downs AONB or along the North Downs Way who want to build experiences based on landscape, wildlife or rural life and culture. Applicants can apply for both the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme and the EXPERIENCE Countryside Development Programme.

New Countryside Experience Development Programme