Hands on a computer keyboard© WestEnd61/Rex/Shutterstock

The Rural Payments Agency has started a 10-week-long digital map update exercise, which  could lead to payment penalties being applied to 2017 Basic Payment Scheme claims.

The agency has announced that it is making a series of digital map updates in order to comply with EU Commission rules that all land data held on the system is no more than three years old by 31 October 2017.

Andrew Jenkinson, partner with land agents Robinson and Hall, said the RPA tried to carry out the update earlier this year, but was forced to change its plans when it started causing problems during the BPS application window.

See also: RPA admits to BPS mapping issues

The maps are being reviewed to reflect new aerial photography, Ordnance Survey map changes and any information submitted as a result of a farm inspection, or supplied by a farmer.

Mr Jenkinson said his biggest fear was the update would cause problems with 2017 BPS payments, given the refreshed maps would be used to verify 2017 claims.

This could see farmers looking at over and under-payments if field sizes had changed since they submitted their applications.

“My fear is that is going to be deleting correct data and replacing it with incorrect data which is going to cause problems for 2017 and beyond, while we still haven’t resolved 2015 and 2016 claims,” he said.

It could also cause complications for anyone submitting a mid-tier Countryside Stewardship application this autumn.

‘Corrected’ maps

Mr Jenkinson said he was concerned that the update may introduce errors into the system if new satellite footage is used to override changes that have previously been established, for example following an on-farm inspection.

 

“I’m afraid we could be heading towards another problem. When they [the RPA] last did this, it took us a couple of years to get this sorted.”

Notifications

Another issue is that while applicants will be notified of any update using the message facility on the Rural Payments online service, farmers will not be sent a separate email.

This makes it important that farmers regularly log in to their online account over the coming weeks to check to see if have been affected.

Mr Robinson said few farmers would normally log in to the system at this time of year, given they were busy with harvest and drilling.

“So people must get on and take the time on a wet day to see if they have mapping changes.”

If claimants disagree with any of the updates they will have to submit an RLE1 form.

Inspection results

The RPA told Farmers Weekly it expects around 800,000 land parcels to be updated in total by the end of October.

It also revealed that any land inspected in 2016 and 2017 would be excluded from the mapping exercise to prevent inspection findings from being overridden.

An RPA spokesperson said: “Maps can be checked online using the Rural Payments Service. Information on how to tell RPA about changes to mapping (using an RLE 1 form) can be found on GOV.UK.”