New approach to conservation unveiled

A new approach to conservation will see farmers teaming up to help revitalise more than 100 of England’s most treasured landscapes.

Natural England, the government’s landscape agency, unveiled a new approach to environmental scheme payments on Wednesday (26 November).

Farmers and land managers in 110 different areas across England will be encouraged to work together to help conserve large parts of the countryside.

The target areas cover more than 4.8m ha (11.9m acres), or one-third of England’s total land area – equivalent to an area 30 times the size of Greater London.

They include the countryside around Downe, Kent, where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution and wrote The Origin of Species.

Farmers signing up to Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) schemes will be encouraged to choose similar environmental activities as their neighbours.

“We want to increase take-up of environmental management across a larger scale,” said Natural England chairman Sir Martin Doughty.

Farmers within the same area who undertook similar conservation activities would improve landscapes much more quickly than previous, piecemeal approaches.

Landowners can select from the same list of HLS options as before, but priority will be given to options that promise most benefit for local landscapes and habitats.

A wide range of options includes management activities such as creating habitats for birds and capital work improvements such as maintaining dry-stone walls.

Sir Martin said: “This targeting plan thinks big and we look forward to working with land managers in these areas on this initiative.”

Important landscapes which lie outside the priority areas will continue to be addressed by regional and local conservation plans.

The Entry Level Stewardship scheme will continue to reward farmers who attain a basic level of good environmental practice.

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