Find answers to your questions about the Landscape Enhancement Initiative – from eligibility and application to matched funding.

Eligibility and general application

Can the Landscape Advisors proactively work with local communities/landowners to work up potential projects?

No. Their involvement can’t stretch beyond guidance, due to their involvement in the decision-making process. They are also unlikely to have the capacity to proactively help all potential applicants and would give unfair advantage to those helped.

In relation to Panel approved full application, what does ‘promotion of a scheme of works’ mean?

This involves making sure that the local community and stakeholders are aware of the scheme before any work takes place. LEI projects also present opportunities to work with volunteers. Given the positive nature of the projects, raising awareness with stakeholders directly or through the local media is actively encouraged.

Can we call in external contractors for advice and works as part of the funding?

Yes. The use of external contractors is acceptable.

Can a LEI application include the commissioning of a management plan and the engaging of an ecological consultant to oversee the works?

There is no problem with including the cost of plans and any staffing, including consultants, in your project costs. However, in relation a management plan, it’s likely that the plan would need to come first, i.e. before you apply, otherwise it will be difficult to give a realistic budget. Unfortunately, you cannot ask for costs that have already been incurred, so any resources used for a plan prior to a grant award would not be eligible.

What is the likelihood of Ofgem approving any LEI applications once it reaches them?

To date, Ofgem has not rejected any applications. However, the process is changing for LEI funding applications submitted between 2021 and 2026. Once the LEI Approvals Panel has approved an application, it will go to a board within National Grid that meets each month. We do not foresee any change in the likelihood of success, but the whole process should be speeded up significantly.

How long can the approved LEI programmes run for?

Three years, plus three years maintenance.

Is there a GIS map available with the layout of National Grid transmission lines?

Maps are available on our Network route maps page.

Can ecological benefits form the basis of a LEI application?

Applications should focus primarily on the character of the landscape and the visual impact; ecological benefits are a secondary outcome. Project proposals should be clearly aimed at enhancing the character of the landscape. Other criteria for LEI projects, including ecological benefits, should not form the basis of the application.

Are we limited to three applications per AONB or National Park at any one time?

You can have as many projects as you like up to a maximum grant amount of £600,000 worth of live projects at any one time, with a maximum grant per project of £200k. We encourage larger projects to maximise the grant. ‘Live’ projects are those within the delivery phase. Once they have entered the compulsory three-year maintenance phase they are no longer considered live.

What are the landowners’ responsibilities to maintain beyond the project?

There are no requirements from the LEI grant programme. We hope that the landowners are invested to an extent that this is likely to continue voluntarily, as the outcome normally benefits the landowner. This could also be included in the agreements between the National Park or AONB and the landowner to be responsible for maintenance for a set period of time beyond the LEI project.

Who is responsible for the delivery of the project where there are landowners or other partners?

Responsibility for applying for and delivering the project is firmly with the National Park or AONB, they are also responsible for delivery in line with agreed Ofgem outputs and liaising with the LEI Project team. The relationship with the partners is the responsibility of the applicant.

What is the general rule on funding interpretation boards as part of the project?

Interpretation boards cannot be funded by the LEI element of the scheme, but can be part of the matched funding of the project.

Does the funding go into the bank accounts of the National Park Authorities and AONB Partnerships despite the partner work and input?

The AONB Partnership or National Park Authority is the responsible and accountable party, so all payments will be made to them. Contracts with partner organisations should be drawn up by the AONB Partnership or National Park Authority and they will distribute costs as agreed.

What is the feedback on applications that include car parks?

As an example, if the view from the car park was impacted by transmission lines it might be that part of the project plan was to move the car park. It’s on a case-by-case basis and general maintenance of the car park would not be considered, and there must be a link with the primary criteria.

Can we use the fund to support land purchase?

It will depend upon the amount. A small amount for land purchase may be acceptable and we’ll look at this on a case-by-case basis.

Could the funding be used to help establish a Community Interest Company or Trust looking to manage land within the project area?

Funding cannot be used to set up any organisation to manage land within the project area.

Can the funding be used to remove other intrusions and/or invasive species?

Yes, but only if this removal is an integral part of the project to enhance the landscape directly affected by the National Grid infrastructure. There are examples of where this has been done successfully on our LEI success stories page. The purpose of the LEI is to reduce the visual impact of the electricity infrastructure and enhance the landscape quality and all projects are examined against the LEI criteria.

To support the long term management of the landscape, will it be possible to use the funding to support training of staff and for the purchase of machinery/equipment to aid the management of sites?

Yes, so long as it’s a necessary part of the LEI project, which has maximum three year implementation and three year maintenance periods. There may be legacy benefit beyond that, but a LEI funding application cannot take that into account.

Can the LEI support project development costs?

Not at the present time. The LEI Project team’s expert advisors provide guidance to support applicants developing their own project proposals.

Location and National Grid infrastructure

Can projects be proposed where the infrastructure is outside the AONB or National Park?

As long as there is strong evidence that the transmission lines have an adverse visual impact directly on the AONB or National Park they can be outside of the boundary, within reason. Evidence of the visual impact is key to the application and can be found in the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment Technical Report. Proposals will be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Where can we get the technical reports to help us understand the lines in our area?

All the National Parks and AONBs have been sent the detailed assessment report for their area. The Landscape Advisors can also supply copies. You can also access our Visual Impact Provision Technical Report, which provides an overview of the assessment (Part 1) and summaries of the assessments of designated areas (Part 2).

Is it only land where there is National Grid owned infrastructure, as detailed in the shapefiles on the National Grid website that is eligible for the scheme?

The LEI scheme has been developed by National Grid to mitigate the impact of its infrastructure within protected landscapes (AONBs and National Parks), so projects within 3 km of National Grid owned overhead lines are eligible (see our network route maps and shapefiles, and further Q&A below about projects beyond the 3 km buffer). However, site specific queries regarding this can be directed to the Landscape Advisors in order to ascertain specific eligibility.

If a pylon run is visible and particularly intrusive beyond the 3 km buffer, would projects to mitigate its impact beyond 3 km be eligible?

Yes, 3 km is only an approximate guide. The extent of project area is more importantly determined by the combination of extent of the identified landscape and visual effects from the National grid infrastructure affecting the AONB or National Park.

Staffing

It has been made clear that you cannot fund existing posts within the AONB or National Park, even though they might be coordinating delivery of the project. Can it be assumed that we can include that time towards our 25% match funding?

Allocation of existing AONB or National Park staff to this project could be included in the match funding, so long as their work on LEI is additional to the normal job.

Could staff time be used as match funding if the person in question is already a full time AONB or National Park officer, but is deployed elsewhere and would therefore need to be diverted (for some of their time) to the LEI project?

Existing staff time allocated to the LEI project can be funded by the matched funding when a person increases their hours specifically for the LEI scheme.

If a new member of staff is proposed to be employed to undertake LEI project management/implementation, how long would the position be eligible to be funded for?

The maximum length of time would be six years – up to three years for the duration of the project and then up to three years for maintenance. It would be anticipated that the staff member would require much reduced hours for the maintenance.

Are there standard rates applied for the cost of volunteer time?

The LEI has not set rates for this, but as a guide we would recommend the use of HLF rates for volunteers.

Matched funding

Eligibility of match funding: if an AONB or National Park has secured £xxx for undergrounding low-voltage lines in a proposed LEI project area, could this be presented as match funding?

No, as this is considered a separate but complimentary project, which would not form part of the LEI project.

Is the minimum 25% matched funding element part of the £200,000 max grant or on top of it?

It’s on top of the max £200,000 grant.

Can projects last longer than a year, e.g. could a project funded in 2019 run into 2020? or does the spend/claim need to be completed in the financial year the project starts in?

The financial year of a project begins on the date of the first grant payment and subsequent years grants are given on the anniversary of the first year’s grant payment.

Can we match National Grid funding against other funding sources, like HLF for example?

Yes, it can be matched against other funding sources.

Can the funding be used to support projects within the setting of the AONB or National Park, where views of the landscape are affected by National Grid infrastructure? Or is it only for projects within the AONB or National Park?

The physical extent of the AONB or National Park boundary is not a hard constraint to the extent of works where:

  • National Grid infrastructure in the setting of the AONB or National Park may result in significant adverse landscape and visual effects within the AONB or National Park

  • there may be instances where projects extend beyond the protected area boundary, which may be funded where they fulfil the criteria of the LEI and will be judged on a case by case basis.

Project outputs and deliverables

Can my outputs change after Ofgem approval?

It’s important that you deliver the outputs as agreed by National Grid / Ofgem. The approval is under National Grid’s licence from Ofgem and any change in outputs will therefore necessitate a change to the licence agreement, so you will need to contact [email protected] to discuss this. If your outputs are not changing from the agreed licence, then this is acceptable – for example, if a landowner wants to swap hedge planting from one area to another within the eligible area, as long as the agreed length of hedgerow planting remains the same.

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Email: [email protected]

Landscape Enhancement Initiative
Benevity
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Cirencester Office Park
Tetbury Road
Gloucestershire  GL7 6JJ