You are here: Home > News > News Story


 

Achieve Success with HLS (or how to pep your FEPs):

HERs and Agri-environment Initiatives

 

Historic Environment Records Forum Winter Meeting

11th December 2006, The Guildhall, High Street, Bath

 

 

Introduction by Nick Boldrini, Chair of HER Forum

Hello Heroes,

Welcome to the first of the new format of HER Forum News, which will now be hosted at the Heritage Gateway. Hopefully this is another step which will see the development of the Heritage Gateway as a useful resource to professionals and researchers alike.

 

A little over a month ago we had the latest HER Forum meeting, in Bath. Due to the logistics of travelling from Newcastle to Bath, I arrived part the way through the first talk by Vince Holyoak, in which he explained how agri-environment schemes had evolved over time. This was followed by Vicky Hunns giving us a snapshot of the schemes as they are working now. Elaine Willett went on to partially unveil the proposed new ALGAO service standard for Higher Level Scheme advice which promised to clarify and simplify the present ways of working. The morning session was rounded off by an early visit from Santa, in the guise of Jeremy Lake, who despite IT problems with his presentation, gave us a quick overview of the Understanding Farmsteads characterisation work he had been doing, and doled out free copies of the book and CD which had emerged from this work.

The afternoon started with a panel presentation by Suzy Blake, Adam Mindykowski, Mark Taylor and Penny Ward who all took turns giving an overview of how they dealt with HLS applications in their respective areas. The day was finished off Steve Podd from FWAG who gave some insight into why applicants may be wary of taking up Historic Environment options.

 

Overall the day gave a good view of how the various agri environment schemes have developed over time, and been used by archaeologists. They showed the success that has been achieved in using these schemes to positively manage sites in farmed environments. However, this was no rose tinted view, and a number of speakers showed that there had been teething problems with the recently introduced schemes. Problems with data provision were highlighted, as were barriers to take up by applicants. On balance, though, the outlook for the future was positive. Coupled with the recognition of issues, there was also an obvious commitment by those involved to get to grips with them. This bodes well for the future development of the schemes, and will certainly have positive benefits for rural heritage management.

 

On another note, after being chair for almost three years, this summer’s meeting will be my last one in this role, as I intend to step down. So if anyone is bursting with a desire to chair future meetings, they should make themselves known to Nick Davis, who will very ably help them look good at the meetings while he does all the hard work behind the scenes.

 

 

Summaries of the presentations delivered at the Meeting follow.  These have been submitted to the speakers for their approval but are not of their authorship. 

 

Rural Heritage and Agri-environment in England: A view from the past.

Dr Vince Holyoak

Senior Policy Officer, English Heritage Rural and Environmental Policy Team

The percentage of the British population employed in agriculture has, since the industrial revolution, dropped faster than anywhere else in Europe. Today Britain employs less people on the land than any other European country. This has brought about a fundamental shift in Government policy over the last sixty years. In 1947, with wartime rationing still in force, the Agriculture Act promoted an increase in material production and enshrined the farmer as the ‘custodian of the countryside’.

 

In terms of the goals of production this policy has achieved considerable success. Before the Second World War Britain imported 70% of its food. Today 70% is produced domestically. There have, however, been misgivings voiced as to the cost of this process to the historic environment. (One third of hedgerows being lost between 1984 and 1993, for example; whilst the Monuments at Risk Survey in 2001 revealed that the majority of England’s seventeen thousand wetland sites had incurred some form of damage).

 

Since 1984, however, European perceptions have begun to shift away from the concept of encouraging farming purely as a producer of foodstuffs. In that year the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was reformed, introducing quotas to limit over production of certain commodities. By 1987 a number of legislative measures relating to agriculture and the environment, including Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs), had been put in place which were subsequently complemented by the implementation of ‘set-aside’ initiatives in 1992. Other schemes intended to benefit the historic environment were also put in train as part of this process. These included the Historic Landscapes Initiative (also in 1992) and measures to encourage traditional buildings restoration in 1996.  

 

The foot and mouth disease crisis in 2001 marked another major turning point in UK Government thinking. It was realised by those in officialdom that agriculture now contributed less to the national economy than tourism. In consequence the decision was reached that the need for sustainably managed ‘quality’ landscapes now outweighed the imperatives of material production.

 

ESAs  formed the core of activity in this sphere until 1991 when Countryside Stewardship (CSS) was introduced. This provided the potential for conservation management to be extended beyond those areas designated as environmentally sensitive.  The Stewardship scheme targets its expenditure through the framework of the Joint Character Areas devised by English Nature and the Countryside Commission. In addition there have also been a number of Special Projects including the Stonehenge/Avebury World Heritage Site. DEFRA, who are responsible for funding these schemes, disperses quite significant sums (fifty two million pounds on ESAs in 2002-03 and fifty three million pounds on Stewardship in the same year, the latter sum rising to sixty nine million pounds in 2003-04).

 

At the Entry Level Scheme (ELS) level CSS has aimed towards a ‘broad and shallow’ approach. Previous initiatives, structured on a case-by-case basis, had proved resource-hungry in terms of administration. Farmers seeking to enter ELS are required to select their own management options. During pilot studies participants were generally positive about this approach. The positive management of field boundaries and historic landscape features were amongst the most popular selections as was maintaining traditional farm buildings (seen as having practical benefits for the farmer).

 

Problems, however, arise when attempting to disseminate archaeological information to cater for this generic ‘broad and shallow’ approach. Attempts were made to provide an archaeological dataset for the ELS pilot areas but this proved enormously difficult within the time allocated. Some HERs were able to respond whilst others found it impossible. Since DEFRA would only accept a HE layer on the roll-out of the project if national coverage was provided, an interim measure based on data contributed by the NMR and a number of HERs was assembled. However, the version of this (Genesis) database which is in currently use does not yet include the material submitted by HERs.

 

In January 2006 the advent of the Common Agricultural Policy Single Payment Scheme signalled the breaking of the link between subsidy payments and production. A shift will now take place from ‘Pillar One’ categories (agricultural production) to ‘Pillar Two’ (rural development). However, the United Kingdom is at present alone in the EU in employing a ‘modulation’ approach, involving a transfer of resourcing ‘slice by slice’ from Pillar One to Two.  

 


 

Into the Present: Environmental Stewardship – both challenge and opportunity

Victoria Hunns

Senior Historic Environment Specialist, Natural England

Environmental Stewardship was introduced in March 2005 as a new stream lined scheme to replace the Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas Agri-Environment schemes. Its aim is to create a payment system (based on income foregone) for those undertaking environmentally beneficial works. The concept of the initiative is based on a notional ‘pyramid’ with the Single Payment Scheme forming the broad base supporting the Entry Level Scheme (ELS) above and the Higher Level Scheme (HLS) at its peak. The initial goal was to encourage as many farmers as possible to join the ELS. The main features of its objectives are that it should be ‘whole farm’ and ‘hands off’ with farmers choosing their own options.  

 

Statistics:

 

Entry Level Scheme

Maintenance of traditional farm buildings – 136 agreements covering more than 65,000 m2 of floor area

Land taken out of cultivation – 257 agreements covering c1150 ha

Reduced Cultivation Depth – 181 agreements covering c6000 ha

Scrub Management – 104 agreements covering c360 ha

Features maintained under grass – 2011 agreements covering >34500 ha

Total (December 06) – 2696 agreements covering 42000 ha

 

Higher Level Scheme

The statistics concerning HLS take-up date are:

Direct drilling – 7 agreements covering >80 ha

Arable reversion/natural regeneration – 70 agreements covering c570 ha

Maintaining water levels – 1 agreement covering c2.6 ha

Maintaining designed waterbodies – 7 agreements covering c8 ha

Watermeadows (maintain) – 2 agreements covering c30 ha

 

Capital items:

Historic and Archaeological Feature Protection – 10 (total £26,700)

Historic Building Restorations – 35 (total >£959,000)

 

ELS options in HLS:

Traditional Farm Buildings – 6 agreements

Land taken out of cultivation – 118 agreements covering c1072 ha

Reduced cultivation depth – 49 agreements covering c930 ha

Scrub management – 35 agreements covering c95 ha

Features maintained under grassland – 312 agreements covering >4600 ha

 

Challenges:

 

Entry Level Scheme

Of the challenges associated with the early phases of the programme many stemmed from data provision. It proved difficult to achieve consistent data quality; including concerns about ‘ghost’ and misplaced sites . The data-set presently in use to provide maps to the applicant/farmer is still without the material provided by HERs, although this is expected to be rectified in Jan 07. There also proved to be inconsistencies within the HER material since the brief provided to them had been interpreted in different ways.  

 

As it has progressed a number of challenges have come to light. It is, for example, proving difficult to isolate evidence demonstrating the extent to which other options (such as field margins) are specifically benefiting the Historic Environment; the ‘hands off’ nature of the scheme means that there is no advice on option-choices to those who fail to achieve HLS status and there is a need to ensure that the ELS cross-compliance measures can be achieved without any conflict with options.

 

Higher Level Scheme

HLS entry is discretionary and is becoming increasingly competitive - as budgets tighten the necessary points threshold is rising. Individual agreements are underpinned by Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) based on an Environmental Audit. They focus on establishing what is of value and managing it according to definite objectives. It is in the creation of FEPs that input from HERs performs a vital role. The HERs must establish all the known historic features which can be dealt with under the scheme.

 

FEP surveyors need to understand what is there and why it is significant and how this can be positively managed. These surveyors are, however, mainly generalists and thus advice from HERs is particularly valuable. Their understanding should still be sufficient to permit them to advise the applicant on priorities and management options. The surveyors need is for specifically targeted advice. Difficulties arise when large quantities of bulky information are provided. There are also other problems of interpretation for surveyors, both in terms of the initial HLC statements and how the FEPs are prioritised.

 

Challenges for HERs in this area (other than payment and time issues which still exist despite the Service Standard agreed in January 2005) hinge on the provision of effective and consistent advice to FEP surveyors and Natural England advisors. Information within the HER has to be both accessible and of satisfactory quality.  For a practical, ‘one stop shop’ for FEP surveyors, there is a clear case for ensuring that both archaeology and historic buildings data are adequately represented in the HER, even if historic buildings advice is unavailable. 

 

Opportunities:

 

Entry Level Scheme

Future opportunities which present themselves include reviewing the dataset provided for ELS – the Selected National Heritage Dataset (SNHD) and methodologies; standardising the approach for the provision of HER data; facilitating the updating of the SNHD and including previously omitted site types.

 

Higher Level Scheme

Opportunities exist in gathering feed-back and reviewing the systems and processes being employed with a view to streamlining the HER consultation process  Of particular interest here is the possibility of improving the existing electronic HER consultation response proforma (to reduce time on manual inputting). Consistency of practice has been an issue, which we hope to addressed through a revised, expanded Service Standard. Time allocation for each element of the process appears to differ from HER to HER. Evidence on this topic should be collated by the HER community to establish which are the main tasks involved and how long they take.

 

It is felt that FEP surveyors require additional training in identifying features in the field and undertaking condition surveys. The process of consistent data entry was also proving, in some respects, problematic.  The electronic HER response cannot be automatically downloaded into the e-FEP.

 

From Natural England’s point of view the work of its advisers in this sphere involves checking that all information is included in the FEP and undertaking quality control. It has to be ensured that there is effective reporting of information back to HERs. At present the reporting back of new sites and errors is not being immediately addressed but efforts are being made to rectify this. Mechanisms also need to be devised to enable Natural England to identify all the benefits which are afforded to the historic environment, not simply those which result from the HE options.

 

If opportunities are fully realised the potential exists for an on-going consultation process to be established involving feedback from HERs, FEP surveyors and Natural England Local and National Team Advisers. Progress will, however, depend on all parties working together, understanding their different roles and the reasons underpinning them and keeping in touch with one another through the medium of ALGAO. 

Environmental Stewardship: FEPs and the Service Standard: The unholy alliance?

Elaine Willett

Regional Development Officer, ALGAO England

The Service Standard, produced jointly by Natural England (NE), English Heritage (EH) and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO), was initially created in 2004 in response to the creation of the Environmental Stewardship Scheme. It helps each of the parties to understand what it can expect of the others and effectively serves as ALGAO’s contract with NE. Its content sets out the information and advice required by Farm Environment Plan (FEP) surveyors, the information needed by HERs, the format in which data should be provided and gives a consultation timetable for the process.

 

Since its implementation much has been learned and many useful comments have been received from ALGAO members. This, coupled with an unexpectedly high number of applications from large farms, has given rise to a need to adapt and enhance the Standard in the light of new circumstances. To this end the text of the agreement has been clarified and simplified, proformas have been added to streamline the process and improved feedback procedures instigated.

 

Under the terms of the Standard the FEP surveyor (‘Fepper’) should provide the relevant HER with the following:

·         An HER consultation letter

·         A map showing the boundary of the holding and Rural Land Registry (RLR) field numbers, at 1:10000 or larger

·         A 6 figure grid reference for the holding

·         Details of National Trust or Defence Estates Land

·         A copy of the FER (if holding is in the Entry Level Scheme)

·         Brief details of other management agreements

 

However, no obligation is placed on the HER until the correct documents have been received and the consultation period begins. Once this period commences the new consultation timetable will (subject to EU approval) extend the previous consultation deadline of 15 working days to 20. (Where insufficient information has been supplied by the fepper their request should be returned to them within 3 working days). Feppers should strive to avoid gluts of consultations building up.

 

Concerning consultation charges, these remain unchanged under the new Standard. Clarification is provided regarding ‘Nil Returns’ (responses where a holding has no historic environment according to current definitions - a simple confirmation of the fact is all that is required of the HER) and also concerning consultations that cross local authority boundaries (that which contains the largest proportion of the holding submits the invoice).

 

In terms of mapping, HERs need only include a map showing designated sites and regionally/locally important sites and an HLC map (if available) with the response. No additional data is required (or will be paid for!) and, if necessary the Fepper can contact the HER again for additional information.

 

The subject of the HER Consultation Proforma has provoked most comments from members. A new version of this Excel document has been developed which has more drop down boxes to speed up data entry. There have been changes to some fields (for example ‘Priority’ which has been sub-divided into ‘National’ and ‘Holding’) and an ‘Optimum Outcomes’ column added (including codes for a set of standard outcomes). This new proforma is to be tested by members before the revised service standard goes out to formal consultation.

 

The service standard has also been enhanced with a proforma letter template to streamline the consultation procedure. The framework also contains sections for HLC and Potential Management which provides a rough guide to the amount of text required. This gives HERs an opportunity to highlight any additional consultation needs etc.

 

Previous feedback arrangements associated with the scheme have been plagued with difficulty. In future it is intended that quarterly reports will be produced by NE. It is also hoped that it will be possible to feed back HE Feature condition data to HERs. An HER feedback form has been produced for ALGAO use, providing evidence of HER input into the scheme.

 

The Service Standard will undoubtedly continue to evolve. A full review of Environmental Stewardship is due to take place in 2007. This will give an opportunity to press for increased payment rates. Advances in IT will further streamline the consultation process and enhancement of the Selected National Heritage Dataset should provide further benefits. A third version of the Service Standard will almost certainly be forthcoming.

 

ALGAO members are thanked for their contribution to this initiative.       

 

 

Understanding Place: New work on Farmsteads

Jeremy Lake

Inspector, English Heritage Characterisation Team

Global pressures on farming – which now contributes less than one per cent to Gross Domestic National Product - will only increase in the next few years, particularly in upland areas. The future maintenance of the great majority is increasingly dependant on their finding a new role outside agriculture, but – despite a general appreciation of the landscape and historic value of farmstead buildings - there have been considerable differences of opinion on how best to secure a sustainable future. Limited knowledge of historic farmsteads in their broader context, and the lack of a consistent framework for understanding and valuing farmsteads and their buildings, has been identified as the greatest obstacle to the targeting of priority features and areas for grant aid, and the development of local plan policies that draw upon an understanding of historic farmsteads in their local and broader context. This is significant, as national planning policy has over the last decade moved from advocating restraint on development in rural areas to the advancement of the principles of sustainable development, based on sound knowledge and an integrated understanding of the environmental, social and economic characteristics within an area.

 

The forces for change which are affecting traditional farm buildings in England are growing rapidly.  Since 1990 25% of listed farm buildings have since been converted to other uses (80% of them for residential purpose). Given these circumstances English Heritage is adapting its outlook to accommodate these social and economic trends. In conjunction with the Countryside Agency it has devised a new policy document which attempts to bring the trend towards conversion into alignment with issues concerning character and sensitivity to change.

 

In the past approaches to conversion and recording have tended to be viewed from the bottom up. The products of this, however, were detailed surveys that were usually never integrated into any broader view of the historic environment. The new policy document, though, attempts to understand farmsteads through understanding their character in combination with their sensitivity to change.

 

The policy document contains a two page section which identifies the key farmstead and building types for each region. It is supported by much larger Preliminary Regional Character Statements, consultative documents which represent an initial attempt to understand the farmsteads of each region in their national and landscape context. To supplement this policy work, Conservation Department has led on producing detailed guidance on the adaptive reuse of farm buildings (The Conversion of Traditional Farm Buildings: a Guide to Good Practice). This guidance is intended to help individuals and local authorities make better and more informed decisions about the future use of farm buildings and their capacity for change both as buildings and within their landscape context. These have been developed into character statements for eight of the EH regions which are held on CDs. These are, in some respects quite crude, representing as they do an attempt to ‘push what we know out there’. It is hoped, however, that this initiative will help to place buildings of this type into a more holistic context and assist in the production of Farm Environment Plans.

 

A pilot project in Hampshire, now extended through Sussex and the High Weald AONB in Kent, has, in close consultation with key partners, developed methodologies for the delivery of character-based approaches that can enable users to recognise and design for local distinctiveness. This has demonstrated that the density and time-depth of farmsteads, and the rates of survival of different types of steading and building, is closely related to patterns of historically-conditioned landscape character and type. It is also showing how county HERs can be rapidly populated and enhanced.

 

As part of the implementation of this process a web-based image ‘tool-kit‘ depicting key farm building types in each character area is being developed. This will come complete with a glossary and pick-list and will help to fit these types into the national context to inform FEP surveyors and the pre-application and recording of buildings. Character statements for a JCA in each every region should be in existence by June 2007, accompanied by rough word documents which further to consultation will enable the web-based product to be populated more fully. The HER Forum will be advised as soon as the consultation draft is ready.

Any feed-back on this initiative from HERs or other users would be gratefully received.

 

Our work on the characterisation of farmsteads is summarised on the team website www.englishheritage.org.uk/characterisation, and on farmsteads more generally under www.helm/regeneration and design/rural development/farmsteads.

 

For a report on the Hampshire pilot project, see :

Jeremy Lake and Bob Edwards, ‘New Approaches to Historic Farmsteads’, Landscape Character Network News, Issue 22 (Spring 2006)

http://www.landscapecharacter.org.uk

J. Lake and B. Edwards, ‘Farmsteads and Landscape: Towards an Integrated View’, Landscapes, 7.1 (2006), 1-36

The Preliminary Regional Character Documents can be viewed at:http://www.helm.org.uk/server/show/category.10116

 

The Conversion of Traditional Farm Buildings can be viewed at:http://www.helm.or.uk/server/show/nav.10600

 

 

An Adviser’s Viewpoint: Historic Environment in the Field

Steve Podd

Farm Conservation Adviser, FWAG

 

(Steve is Farm Conservation Adviser for the Kent and Sussex High Weald. Prior to this he was involved in projects situated in the arable farming areas of East Anglia. He has a long-term interest in landscape history).

 

It was seen as important that the viewpoint outlined below was one which satisfactorily conveyed a national perspective of the present situation. To this end a number of advisers up and down the country were asked a range of questions regarding their experiences with Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), Higher level Stewardship (HLS) and Farm Environment Plans (FEPs).

 

To begin by setting conservation of historic/landscape features within the context of the Environmental Stewardship initiative as a whole: historic environment (HE) options were low in popularity as far as ELS was concerned. Lately they had stood in 13th place in the uptake table. The general view was that conservation of HE features was an issue best held back for attention at the HLS stage, but if farmers failed to get into HLS, the historic environment would clearly lose out.

 

The majority of advisers were, however, positive when asked if they would like to receive all known HE information before mapping for ELS. (Yes 27, No 9), although another question put to advisers on the same topic: ‘Do you automatically mark all the HE features on Farm Environment Record Maps?’ produced a rather more qualified response (Automatically mark 14, Ask farmer first 24). The process of HE mapping was one that that often gave rise to a number of subsidiary questions: What should the adviser record? Which site-types? At what state of preservation? Should Feppers report features discovered or will the RDS do this? All are points on which advisers would value information.

 

A digest of statistics concerning opinions held by farmers was also produced. These recorded opinions regarding each of the options and graded them according to three levels of desirability: Avoid at all costs; Avoid if possible and No problem with option. Results were as follows-

 

Option ED1/HD1: Maintenance of weatherproof Traditional Farm Buildings -

AAAC: 5; AIP 14; NPWO 21

 

Option ED2/HD2: Take archaeological features currently on cultivated land out of cultivation – AAAC 2; AIP 26; NPWO 11

 

Option ED3/HD3: Reduce cultivation depth an land where there are archaeological features – AAAC 5; AIP 27; NPWO 8

 

Option ED4/HD4: Management of scrub on archaeological sites – AAAC 1; AIP 18; NPWO 17

 

Option ED5/HD5: Archaeological features on grassland – AAAC 1; AIP 13; NPWO 23

 

In the case of the two least acceptable options (ED2/HD2 and ED3/HD3) the objections raised largely stemmed from the disruption caused to the farming system and the lack of suitable machinery to cope with reduced-depth cultivation. The latter option precluded the production of roots, maize and energy crops whilst neither were thought to provide sufficient points to cover the perceived losses which would result.

 

Option EC3: Maintenance of woodland fences (and protection of any adjacent woodbank) was not scored in this instance. It is probable, however, that most farmers don’t survey for internal woodland features. The boundary fence is generally obvious when considering this question but it is not clear whether the same criteria apply to features within the wood. By extension this also extends to other elements of ‘historic value’ many of which are also unknown to farmers. Should all historic hedgerows be mapped as HE features, for example?

 

Four further categories were suggested as additions to the ELS HE options (for which a ‘yes/no’ opinion was sought), and a request made for other suggestions:

 

Wood banks (Y16, N11)

Woodland archaeology (Y20, N8)

Historic boundaries (Y25, N5)

Historic routeways (Y25, N6)

Old sea walls (Y1)

Pits/quarries (Y2)

 

Turning to the Higher Level Scheme, reactions from participating farmers were also sought in this regard. The responses can be summarised as follows:

 

HD1 (Maintenance of Traditional Farm Buildings): Happy 11, Some concern 3, Too strict 0

HD2 (Take archaeological features currently on cultivated land out of cultivation): H 16, SC 12, TS 0

HD3 (Reduce Cultivation Depth): H 4, SC 6, TS 5

HD4 (Management of scrub on archaeological sites): H 10, SC 5, TS 2

HD5 (Archaeological features on grassland): H 2, SC 10, TS 4

HD6 (Crop establishment by direct drilling): H 0, SC 6, TS 2

HD7 (Arable reversion by natural regeneration): H 14, SC 10, TS 2

HD8 (Maintaining high water levels to protect archaeology): H 1, SC 0, TS 0

HD9 (Maintenance of designated/engineered water bodies): H 4, SC 1, TS 0

HD 10 (Maintenance of traditional water meadows): H 2, SC 1, TS 0

HD 11 (Restoration of traditional water meadows): H 0, SC 0, TS 1

HD 12/13 (Maintenance/restoration of wood pasture and parkland): H 7, SC 6, TS 4

HAP capital payments: H 7, SC 5, TS 0

HTB capital payments:  H 10, SC 7, TS 2

 

Reviewing these responses the majority of participants appear to be fairly happy. Note should be made, though, of certain areas of concern, for example HD5. The figures also show a particularly low take-up for elements of the initiative associated with water levels and features.

 

Participants were also asked a series of questions intended to gauge the content and delivery of the HE information which they had received. Here the most significant findings as far as HERs are concerned can be summarised thus:

 

Increased use of electronic data would be beneficial since manual entry is time-consuming and leaves scope for transcription errors. Wherever possible aerial photographs should be provided as these constitute important information for which the HER is often the best source. The potential of direct meetings with archaeologists and following up the process through site monitoring visits were also issues which were felt to be capable of further development. A very encouraging factor was that there was an overwhelming feeling amongst advisers that they enjoyed a good working relationship with those who provided information.

 

The most significant feature, and the one which should receive greatest emphasis, however, related to the time taken to provide the information. Of those questioned only 16 had received the material within the requisite time compared to 23 who had not (some having waited for as long as three months for the information). This is a potentially serious matter for applicants in that it may delay the application until the next ‘window’. By that time the points requirement may have changed and the application consequently rejected.

 

Four suggestions were made to HERs regarding improvements to the format in which they presented their information:

·         Electronic data transfer to paste straight into FEP

·         More information presented in map form

·         8 figure grid references (in preference to 6 figure references which are difficult to use)

·         More information on farm buildings

 

The latter point has been identified as a training requirement within FWAG. Problems in interpretation and particularly in distinguishing between farm building types are generally acknowledged (17 of those asked being unhappy with the process compared to 19 who were happy).

 

In conclusion there is much to be enthusiastic about in Environmental Stewardship, ELS and HLS. Particularly welcome is the opportunity under ELS for a large number of farmers to take up simple options which benefit the farm environment, including the historic environment. There is a need, however, to raise the general awareness of farmers regarding the historic environment. Practical implementation of the initiative also reveals extensive gaps in fieldwork and consequently in the evidence that is provided. There is scope for considering additional HE options under ELS, for example, the suggestion that applicants could receive points for allowing field walking on their farms). In general terms, however, the scheme is a very constructive beginning from which we can build.

 

 

Panel Presentation: Practical Applications of Agri-Environment Schemes at HER Level

 

Higher Level Stewardship Farm Environment Plan Consultations:

The situation in Staffordshire

Suzy Blake

HER Officer, Staffordshire County Council

The Staffordshire Historic Environment Team formerly consisted of four members but has recently been expanded to five. These are the Head of Cultural Environment; the Historic Environment Officer (Archaeology); the Historic Environment Officer (Built Environment); the Historic Environment Records Officer and (since November 2006) the Historic Environment Officer (Landscape Archaeology). The HER Officer has, up until very recently, been responsible for FEPS.

 

The total number of consultations dealt with during 2005-2006 was 96. 60% of these were received in 2006, representing a 20% increase in the number of consultations received between 2005 and 2006. Since November 2006, however, no further consultations had been received.

 

Breaking the analysis of these figures down on a year by year basis, 38 FEP Consultations were received in 2005.  97% of these received responses within 15 working days. There were 3 resulting site visits and follow up information and advice was provided for 1 site. In 2006 the number of consultations rose to 58. Of these 55% were responded to within 15 working days. 2 sites were visited and follow-up advice and information was provided for 3.

 

The elements of the response provided by the HER are maps, proformas and a summary outlining the information that this material is based upon. In terms of what they themselves would find helpful, the HER would like more GIS support, feedback on the FEP responses from Feppers and the Rural Development Service and information regarding the uptake of management options (preferably something more substantial than simple statistics) which farms have taken up.  

 

Future prospects for the scheme in Staffordshire have been enhanced by the County Council’s continued support. The new post of Landscape Archaeologist will provide support for the initiative at busier times and (currently at least) there is less pressure from other work areas.

 

HECAS and HER Advice for FEPs in Worcestershire

Adam Mindykowski

Historic Environment Countryside Adviser, Worcestershire County Council

Much of the workload of the Worcestershire HECAS Officer is taken up in dealing with FEPS and the provision of follow-up advice, both pre-and post-application. The usual procedure in the county is based on the provision of HER feature and historic mapping. Provision of the latter is the least demanding process in terms of time requirement.  The report provided also makes reference to these maps and many Feppers seem to find this useful, particularly in relation to assessing boundary loss and the extent of traditional orchards on the holding. The maps and report are also accompanied by an ALGAO Feature Proforma and an HLC description. Any recommendations made in the report are couched in layman’s terminology.

 

Use of the HER data in this context has revealed a notable bias in the HER’s coverage towards the urban centres. This seems to stem from a concentration in archaeological activity in these areas resulting from development work. Beyond the confines of towns and cities the information available is a great deal patchier (reflecting a theme also noted by Steve Podd below).  

 

Statistics for the applications processed so far have been produced and can be listed thus:

 

  • 89 FEP consultations carried out between March 2005 and December 2006.
  • A small FEP unit of around 173 ha can be dealt with by a HECA in a day (and results in 3.5 hours HER enhancement).
  • Larger units (500+ ha) can require up to 5 days work (resulting in 5 hours HER enhancement).
  • The largest unit dealt with to date (1570 ha) is still in progress. It has so far taken 10 days to process and resulted in 5 days HER enhancement.
  • Time spent on FEP consultations ranges from 0.5 days to 10+ days.
  • Average time requirement to process FEP unit: 1.5 days (Including HER enhancement).
  • HER Enhancement falls into two categories: edits carried out in order to bring older/less accurate records upto FEP reporting standard, and additional features added to the HER as a result of FEP related site visits carried out by the Historic Environment Countryside Adviser.
  • Running cost of HER enhancement work £1525.50 (to December 2006).

 

The Situation in West Sussex

Mark Taylor

Senior Archaeologist, West Sussex County Council

West Sussex County Council employs only two full-time archaeologists and one part-time HER Officer.  There is not a dedicated member of staff to deal with stewardship and FEP consultations. Consequently FEP consultations have to be accommodated alongside other workload demands. The FEP applications in the county are also, on average very large. Only two of those so far received have been less than 50 ha. Some have involved extensive estates (such as that of the Duke of Norfolk). This makes it difficult to estimate adequate time allocation for the initiative. The approach so far has been to target specific sites which would benefit from management and consultation. This, needless to say, is only seen as the beginning of a much more extensive process.

 

Historic Landscape Character (HLC) mapping has been available to West Sussex since the beginning of 2006. Whilst this transforms understanding of the landscape it needs to be employed in conjunction with historic (Ordnance Survey) mapping and air photographs to provide a satisfactorily rounded view. The work done by Jeremy Lake for English Heritage on historic farmsteads (see above) has also done much to expand on the HLC information and has illuminated the situation in respect of several applications.

 

As more FEP consultations have come in it is interesting to see the dynamism inherent in the landscape.  HLC survey data has demonstrated that the downland is the most dynamic landscape in West Sussex in terms of change over the past 200 years.  Had the HLC data been available to feed into the debate concerning the boundaries of the proposed South Downs National Park it would it have influenced the outcome? The possibility of using an HLC based historic landscape approach to the initiative may be a useful one to explore and could provide a useful guide to DEFRA and the Higher Level Scheme.

 

As with Staffordshire (see Suzy Blake above) there seems to have been a marked tailing-off of applications received since November 2006. It remains to be seen if this is part of a more general trend.

 

The use of HLC and other spatial information about the historic and natural environment is relatively recent in the FEP process and HLS applications.  Archaeologists in local government and colleagues in national agencies are all at the lower end of the ‘learning curve’.  HLC data (and analysis of it) needs to be carried out against a set of consistently applied criteria to ensure that the value of historic environment assets is properly credited when an HLS application is made.Training would benefit all parties.

 

A final plea must be made for feedback. (As yet none has been received by the West Sussex SMR). Local Authority services increasingly need to demonstrate value (and local elected Members want to know that the investment of public funding can be measured against outcomes).  It is therefore essential that indicators are provided to signal the value of this initiative.

 

The Situation in Shropshire

Penny Ward

HER Officer, Shropshire County Council

In Shropshire the response to FEPs is led by the Historic Environment Officer, but he is supported by the HER Officer, who digitises the perimeter of the FEP application and also carries out any necessary enhancements to the HER. The HLC input is provided by the Landscape Officer. This sharing of the load, although hardly an ideal way of working, has enabled us to process 193 consultations successfully to date. However, lack of staff resources means that the whole exercise is entirely desk based and even sometimes mechanistic, which is frustrating in terms of the true potential of the Higher Level Scheme.

 

A textual description of the Historic Landscape Character of the holding is written for every FEP consultation. A Feature Details Report, supported by a map, is only generated if the holding contains features about which meaningful management recommendations can be made, and to date 89 consultations (47%) have not contained any such features. This is probably more due to biases and gaps in the information held within the HER than any lack of an actual historical element in the landscapes in question. Some 72 of the consultations (38%) contained 1 to 3 features.

 

Broken down across the period since April 2005, the number of applications averages approximately 40 per quarter with some evidence of a tailing-off since summer 2006.  In terms of those responsible for submitting these applications, four main groups seem to be involved. In descending order these are: Land Agents (77), FWAG or similar Rural Advisory Groups (40), Consultants (38) and farmers themselves (33). 

 

Analysing the types of features identified, 24% (80) have been enclosures, 9% (32) ridge and furrow and 6% (22) ring-ditches. Looking geographically at the land areas involved, the total number of FEP consultations to date covers 23,190 ha (or 7% of the total area of Shropshire). Although most areas of the county have had some consultations, perhaps the most marked feature of their distribution is that there are clear instances of a ‘ripple effect’, where one consultation will often be followed by a consultation from an adjoining holding.