Strong provision for heritage secured in Welsh Sustainable Farming Scheme


Last week the Welsh Government published its Outline Proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme, which outlines the approach that will be taken to agri-environment funding following the transition away from the EU Common Agricultural Programme. 

CIfA is pleased that the draft includes strong provision for the historic environment. This follows lobbying and stakeholder engagement by CIfA and the Welsh Archaeological Trusts last year, in response to concerns that heritage could be omitted from the Scheme. 

CIfA would like to praise the Welsh Government for the way that the Scheme’s contribution to heritage is described in the scheme, noting that key principles such as the integrated nature of heritage, nature, and landscape are embedded in the Scheme. We also welcome the inclusion of the notion that farmers are stewards of the historic environment, but that they may need assistance from specialists in the historic environment to undertake certain works to protect and enhance the assets on their land. We are also pleased that heritage is included in the Scheme not only in the form of heritage protection, but also in relation to public access and engagement with the land. 

The Scheme will ensure that farmers work towards sustainable land management outcomes – one of which is ‘protecting natural landscapes and the historic environment’ – and will allow farmers to claim funding for undertaking specific actions in support of these outcomes. 

The Scheme will include a set of statutory baseline standards (which will be modelled on the General Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) standards used in existing EU schemes) as well as a ‘Universal’ tier of actions which all farmers will need to undertake in order to receive a baseline payment, and an ‘Optional’ tier which will include more targeted, higher level, actions. There will also be a tier for collaborative landscape-scale actions with multiple landowners working together. 

While more detail will be fleshed out in the next stage of development, the Scheme outlines the following scope for heritage contributions: 

Universal tier:  

  • Farms with historical environment features identified on their land will need to follow general guidance on how to manage them. 

Optional Tier:  

  • Farmers will be supported for reporting on the condition of historic features and how they are managed. Where appropriate, they will be supported to repair or conserve a historic feature with professional guidance. 
  • Farmers will be supported to deliver more for protected landscapes. These actions will be bespoke to the farm and surrounding area and will align with the special qualities of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or a National Park. 

Collaborative tier: 

  • The Scheme will support landscape-based collaborative projects which enhance the historic environment and designated landscape across multiple farms.  

At the next stage CIfA will contribute to the development of detail that will underpin the scheme, and promote heritage pilot projects. We will raise the need for the Scheme to recognise that investing in heritage outcomes also has benefits to other scheme outcomes and vice-versa, like biodiversity and economic sustainability, to ensure that these benefits are properly accounted for. We will also advise on the structuring of expert advice to farmers and the delivery of advice by Farming Connect, and how the service will liaise with historic environment experts, chiefly in the Welsh Archaeological Trusts and Cadw.