aerial view of farm© Rex/Shutterstock

The RPA is updating English farmers’ digital maps. Alice De Soer from the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) urges people to check their online maps as there could be effects on both the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and agri-environment agreements.

Below she answers the questions to help you get to grips with what has changed and what you need to do about it.

Why is the RPA updating my maps again?

The digital maps are updated by the RPA throughout the year using the latest available Ordnance Survey (OS) data and aerial photography, farm inspection findings and RLE1 forms sent in by farmers requesting changes to mapping.

In addition, the European Commission requires the RPA to proactively check that the mapping data held for all 2.2m land parcels is no more than three years old by 31 October 2017.

RPA form

© ING image

See also: RPA map update affect 2017 BPS claims

This process, known as Proactive Land Change Detection (PLCD), is not new and was carried out under the Single Payment Scheme. The RPA started publishing PLCD mapping updates in July and this will continue until at least the end of October 2017.

Consequently, a number of BPS claimants and agri-environment scheme agreement holders will see changes made to their online maps.

How will I know if the RPA has updated my maps?

You should receive an online notification in the “messages” area of your Rural Payments service account, but you’ll need to sign-in to the Rural Payments service to know if you’ve received any of these notifications.

The RPA won’t send an email to tell you there are “messages” waiting to be read or that they have made PLCD changes to your maps, so it’s important you regularly sign-in to the Rural Payments service and check your “messages” over the coming weeks.

The online notification should include a list of the land parcel references which have been updated by the RPA, but it won’t say what’s been changed.

You may receive a number of these online notifications at different times because the RPA isn’t completing all the mapping updates for a Single Business Identifier (SBI) at the same time.

These online notifications are only being sent for PLCD mapping updates, not for any other mapping changes.

How do I check these PLCD mapping updates?

You’ll need to look at your online maps by signing-in to your Rural Payments service account and from the “Business overview” page, go to“Land” and “View land”.

farm track

© Stuart Forster/Rex/Shutterstock

Use the online notification in “messages” with the list of land parcel references to check each affected field on your online maps. Some of these PLCD mapping updates may be negligible, for example, a minor boundary movement which doesn’t change the land parcel’s area. In that case, it may look like nothing has altered.

Carefully check permanent boundaries, BPS eligible area,“land cover” (permanent grassland, arable, permanent crops and non-agricultural area), as well as land parcels which have been split or merged.

These changes could affect BPS 2017 payments, as well as existing agri-environment or woodland agreement revenue claims submitted earlier this year.

What effect will PLCD mapping updates have on BPS 2017 payments and existing agri-environment or woodland agreement revenue payments?

Payments will be calculated using the land data after any PLCD mapping updates have been applied. If land parcels have changed because of PLCD mapping updates, the associated payments could also be different. The mapping updates and payments therefore need to be carefully checked.

An RLE1 form was submitted with my BPS 2017 application, how do the PLCD mapping updates affect that?

The RPA should review the RLE1 form alongside the latest OS data and aerial photography and complete the necessary updates to the digital maps.

Why has the RPA merged my land parcels?

There must be a permanent physical boundary for land parcels to be viewed as being separate. If there isn’t such a boundary shown on the latest OS data or aerial photography, the RPA will automatically merge the land parcels unless they’re owned/occupied by two or more different Single Business Identifiers (SBIs).

Where marker posts are being used to demarcate the permanent physical boundary between parcels, the RPA recommends they have a white or coloured top, that at least three posts are used to identify a straight boundary, marking both ends and the mid-point, with a post to mark each turning point in the boundary line if it’s not straight. They must be clearly visible to an RPA inspector.

I’m applying to Countryside Stewardship this year. How will these PLCD mapping updates affect that application?

If you’ve already submitted your Countryside Stewardship application, you don’t need to do anything. Natural England should use any updated mapping information when your application is processed.

Mapping updates summary

  • Sign-in to the Rural Payments service and check “messages” for online notifications of PLCD mapping updates
  • Keep checking “messages” as more online notifications may arrive
  • Use the online maps in “View land” to check the mapping updates
  • If a PLCD mapping update seems incorrect, submit an RLE1 form and sketch map and mark both with “unrequested change query”

If your application is yet to be submitted, complete it using the land details provided by Natural England in your application pack and submit it, together with any required evidence, by 30 September 2017 deadline.

Natural England should incorporate any PLCD mapping updates when your application is processed and, if your application is successful, your agreement should show the updated mapping information.

What should I do if a PLCD mapping update seems to be incorrect?

If you believe a PLCD mapping update isn’t correct, and have evidence to support that, complete an RLE1 form (available on the government website – search “RLE1”) and sketch map and submit them to the RPA.

Make sure the sketch map is clear about what changes are needed, including measurements, reference points and any supporting notes to explain the situation.

Follow these steps when completing the RLE1 form:

  • Write “unrequested change query” on the front of the RLE1 form and sketch map
  • Give the parcel reference number and mark the changes needed on the RLE1 form and sketch map. Also give the date the change happened on the ground
  • Write on the RLE1 form and scheme map what scheme the mapping change applies to, for example, BPS, Countryside Stewardship 2017 application, existing Countryside Stewardship 2016 or 2016 agreement, etc.

The mapping should then be reviewed by the RPA, but no timescale has been given for completing that.

The RPA stated on the government website that it “will focus on making payments, so may need additional time to review your RLE1 request”. They are also “currently considering the options for the most effective way to notify you of any decision they make”.

What if the RPA hasn’t reviewed my “unrequested change query” RLE1 by 1 December 2017 when the BPS 2017 payment window opens?

Without a timescale for the RPA to review these “unrequested change query” RLE1s, there could be an impact on BPS 2017 payments. As in previous BPS years, the BPS 2017 payment will be made on the basis of the “control” data (land and entitlements) which is held on the RPA’s system at the point in time the payment is issued.

If an “unrequested change query” RLE1 hasn’t been reviewed when a BPS 2017 payment is made, it will be based on the land as it is mapped and the BPS 2017 payment may need to be adjusted once the “unrequested change query” RLE1 has been reviewed by the RPA.