Defra Uplands Policy Review

The conclusions of the Uplands Policy Review were launched at Newton Rigg agricultural college on March 10th. Caroline Spellman, the Secretary of State said:

“England’s upland communities face difficult challenges, as do other remote parts of rural England, yet these are places with a remarkable range of human and natural assets and they can have a bright future. I am determined that these areas will not be overlooked and that is why I will champion their interests right from the centre of Government.

“Making a living as a hill farmer can be very difficult without the payments which reward the valuable environmental contribution they make, and unless farmers get help to innovate and diversify.  The range of measures announced today will help hill farmers become more competitive and take advantage of new opportunities to grow their businesses. They will also help rural communities to thrive.”

Some of the key measures announced include:

  • A guarantee that 100% of hill farmers eligible to enter Uplands Entry Level Stewardship (UELS) – the key environmental management scheme for hill farmers – will be able to do so; this would be worth up to an extra £6m a year from within the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).
  • Creation of an “Uplands Theme” in the delivery arrangements for the socio-economic elements of the current Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) (2007-13) to provide targeted support to upland areas (including to hill farmers) through specific schemes and/or weighting towards the uplands in national schemes.
  • A commitment to reduce the burden of unnecessary red tape on hill farmers in the light of the forthcoming report of the Task Force on Farming Regulation
  • A new Rural Community Broadband Fund, expected to be worth up to £20million, to allow rural communities – including those in the uplands – to apply for help with small scale broadband projects; this is expected to be financed by matching RDPE European funding with BDUK exchequer funding, and will help to end the digital and social divide suffered by rural areas.
  • A process of consultation on whether the legislation for National Parks needs to better reflect their role in facilitating sustainable development, but without compromising the integrity of our National Parks.

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