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Countryside: Access

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL14924, tabled on 14 April 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proportion of the farm trials taking place to prepare for the implementation of the Agriculture Act 2020 are focused on improving public access to the countryside.

Answered on

28 April 2021

To support the development of the future environmental land management schemes, we are undertaking a number of tests and trials. We are working with a range of stakeholders to facilitate the tests and trials, including farmer groups, representative bodies and non-governmental organisations. Six tests and trials are focusing on access; details on each are provided below.

  • Kent Downs AONB, Enhancing access opportunities

The Kent Downs AONB is working with two farmers and land manager groups to enhance access to landscapes and nature for public benefit and co-develop a template of practical ways that the future schemes can support better and more diverse access. Local trusted experts will be used to work with farmers and land managers and their representative organisations and explore existing best practice; experts in access health and wellbeing will be involved to understand benefits and barriers. This test will run until June 2021.

  • National Trust, Payments for Outcomes

The National Trust have produced a manual of outcome-based measures, for a ‘payments for outcomes’ scheme. It focused on upland priority habitats, pollinator health and soil health. It reviewed and refined these measures considering lessons learned to date, drawing on current work on natural flood management, public access and historic and landscape features in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The test has now concluded.

  • Cuckmere and Pevensey Levels Catchment Partnership, Cuckmere and Pevensey Levels Land Management Pilot

The Cuckmere and Pevensey Level Catchment Partnership is a well-established partnership which brings together 55 different farmers, the local authorities, the water board, artists, and other stakeholders in the area. The trial developed a landscape scale plan for the Cuckmere and Pevensey Catchment with a wide range of partners, including local planning authorities, farmers and the local community, aimed at delivering public goods including access. The plan was then used to develop farm holding management plans. The trial has now concluded.

  • The Trails Trust, How to incentivise green infrastructure access and biodiversity creation

The Trails Trust is exploring the opinions and potential solutions to creating, upgrading and maintaining infrastructure networks. The trial will involve 50 farmers and land managers; facilitators will examine existing data to identify access opportunities on the farmers’ holdings. The trial aims to identify barriers to delivering access; potential solutions, including incentives and mechanisms; what payment levels and mechanisms would be required to enable collaboration across holdings; how could access be included as part of a land management plan. The test is due to conclude in June 2021.

  • South Downs National Park Authority, South Downs Farm Clusters

The South Downs National Park Authority held a series of workshops to identify the format of land management plans; what outcomes should be prioritised; what advice farmers and land managers require; and what role farm clusters could play in scheme design and delivery. This test concluded in December 2019. In the final report, public access was cited as an area where farmers and land managers may require specialist advice.

  • Forestry Commission, Urban Woodland Creation

The Forestry Commission’s Urban Woodland Creation test seeks to develop and test a support package aimed at encouraging community woodland creation and the management of urban community woodland. The test will focus on establishing what public goods can be delivered by urban and peri-urban forestry; assessing the benefits of public engagement and access; and testing methods, activities and payment mechanisms for planting and managing trees and woodland in an urban and peri-urban setting. The test is due to conclude in May 2021.