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Rural Funding

On this page you can find information about the programmes that offer advice and funding for the care of heritage in rural settings.

Mixed land use, Stonehenge World Heritage Site
Mixed land use, Stonehenge World Heritage Site © Rachel Foster, English Heritage, 2002

Rural Development Programme for England

The Rural Development Programme for England 2014-2020 (RDPE) is jointly funded by the European Union, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and the Government.

The RDPE funds projects to improve agriculture, the environment and rural life through schemes which:

  • Improve the environment
  • Strengthen the rural economy
  • Increase the productivity of farming and forestry

The RDPE has four main elements:

  • Countryside Stewardship
  • Countryside Productivity
  • Growth Programme
  • LEADER

The main funding streams for the rural historic environment are Countryside Stewardship and LEADER, but all these four elements provide potential funding for adapting and re-using redundant buildings for commercial community purposes, including for tourism-related activities

Barrows being ploughed
Ploughing is very close to or on these Bronze Age round barrows and their ditches. © Historic England

LEADER and the historic environment

LEADER is a European Commission initiative to support the development of rural areas across the European Union (EU).

First introduced in 1991 as a funding programme, LEADER is now adopted as a community-based approach to deliver measures within the wider RDPE and offers a range of opportunities for local groups to identify and care for their heritage including:

  • Encouraging tourism activities
  • Village renewal and conservation
  • The upgrading of rural heritage

Other sources of LEADER information include:

The Rural Development Programme for England 2014–2020 
 
The LEADER approach in the RDPE National Delivery Framework

Countryside Stewardship and the historic environment 2015-2020

Countryside Stewardship replaces the previous agri-environmental scheme, Environmental Stewardship (which closed in 2014) and provides incentives for land managers to look after the environment.

It is open to all eligible farmers, woodland owners, foresters and other land managers through a competitive application process. It is one of the main contributors to meeting the Government's targets for Heritage at Risk.

The main priority for Countryside Stewardship is to protect and enhance the natural environment, particularly the diversity of wildlife (biodiversity). Water quality is another important priority, and climate change is an over-arching priority.

The scheme will also help to improve:

  • The historic environment  including the protection and enhancement of historic and archaeological features, including non-domestic traditional rural buildings
  • Landscape character
  • Flood management
  • Genetic conservation
  • Educational access

The scheme is run by Natural England and the Forestry Commission on behalf of Defra, and the Rural Payments Agency manage claims and payments. Both Historic England and local authority historic environment staff provide advice on the Scheme to Defra and its agencies in relation to heritage. The scheme is voluntary and competitive; farmers and land-owners have to choose to enter into an agreement.

There are three main elements within Countryside Stewardship:

  • Higher Tier – five year agreements for environmentally significant sites, commons and woodlands with complex management needs
  • Mid Tier – five year agreements for environmental improvements in the wider countryside
  • Capital grants – one- to two-year grants for specific capital works

In exceptional cases five year agreements may be extended in order to achieve relevant environmental objectives. There is a common menu of 244 options which farmers can choose from to manage their land (such as “the creation of grassland for target features”) within which there is a number of options designed especially to help manage the historic environment (such as “scrub control on historic and archaeological features”).

Chilton Ridge and Furrow
Ridge and furrow under grassland, Chilton © Historic England

There are a number of detailed conditions relating to the historic environment and agreement land. These include metal detecting on agri-environment land.

Many LEADER projects have conserved and enhanced heritage assets to the benefit of the local area
Many LEADER projects have conserved and enhanced heritage assets to the benefit of the local area © Historic England

SHINE

Historic England and our colleagues in local government advise on the Countryside Stewardship Scheme using a number of tools. The Selected Heritage Inventory for Natural England (SHINE) is one of them. It's a joint project between Natural England, the Association of local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) and Historic England. Find out more about SHINE

COSMIC: Conservation of Scheduled Monuments in Cultivation

We  also continue to work together with Natural England to identify and prioritise Scheduled Monuments at risk of damage or loss from arable farming. The  COSMIC toolkit will give farmers and heritage managers realistic options for managing the archaeology so that they can either avoid or reduce negative effects of cultivation.  You can download the report about the COSMIC project findings

Further information about Countryside Stewardship can be found in its manuals:
Countryside Stewardship: Mid Tier 
Countryside Stewardship: Higher Tier manual

Related publications

Whilst some parts of the publications below may now be out-of-date, Historic England believes that they still contain useful advice, guidance and case studies for farm advisers and heritage managers. All of these land types and sites may be managed under Countryside Stewardship:

LEADER and the historic environment

LEADER and the historic environment

Published 1 September 2008

This publication describes some of the important work carried out by the LEADER+ Programme to realise the potential of the historic environment. The work relies on direct community involvement and has secured other economic, social and environmental benefits.

Farming the Historic Landscape. Caring for Archaeological Sites on Arable Land

Farming the Historic Landscape. Caring for Archaeological Sites on Arable Land

Published 1 May 2004

This leaflet has been designed to help farmers, land managers and farm advisers identify archaeological sites that are on arable land and achieve best practice in their management.

Farming the Historic Landscape. Caring for Archaeological Sites in Grassland

Farming the Historic Landscape. Caring for Archaeological Sites in Grassland

Published 1 May 2004

This leaflet has been designed to help farmers, land managers and farm advisers identify archaeological sites that are under grassland and achieve best practice in their management.

Farming the Historic Landscape: Caring for Historic Parkland

Farming the Historic Landscape: Caring for Historic Parkland

Published 1 May 2005

This leaflet has been designed to help farmers, land managers and farm advisers identify historic parkland features and ensure their conservation through appropriate management.

Conserving Historic Water Meadows

Conserving Historic Water Meadows

Published 31 July 2014

This guide aims to promote wider awareness of the rich heritage of water meadows. It is intended primarily for nature conservation groups, farmers, landowners, communities or individuals undertaking habitat ‘restoration’ work on historic water meadows.

The Maintenance and Repair of Traditional Farm Buildings

The Maintenance and Repair of Traditional Farm Buildings

Published 23 September 2011

This publication gives practical advice to farmers, land managers and others involved with the maintenance and repair of traditional farm buildings.

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