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Government Invests Over £100 Million To Preserve And Support Our Rural Heritage


England’s historic rural environment is an asset that must be protected and treasured, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Knight said last night.

Mr Knight, speaking at the launch of English Heritage’s report Heritage Counts, said that protecting buildings and other historic sites and structure was vital to the future of rural communities.

Mr Knight emphasised the important role that the government played in supporting England’s rural heritage,

“Defra has invested more than £100 million over the past five years, working in partnership with the Rural Development Service to deliver the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP), which encourages an integrated approach to land management. ERDP schemes are designed to consider issues of biodiversity, landscape, public access and resource protection, thus delivering the greatest possible benefits to both our built and natural environments.

“Funding through these schemes has helped restore over seven million metres of traditional hedgerows and stone walls, more than 2,800 traditional farm buildings and 100,000 hectares of parklands. Over £1.6 million has been spent on protecting historic archaeological features.

“The Environmental Stewardship Scheme, launched on the 3rd of March this year, takes Defra’s investment in heritage further. In addition to providing grants as incentives to safeguard and manage environmental features, it rewards farmers for undertaking good environmental practices.

“I am delighted that Heritage Counts recognises the importance that Defra’s schemes are playing in delivering conservation and encouraging good management of the historic environment in rural areas. However, it’s important to strike the right balance: we need to ensure that we are not preserving our buildings while losing our communities. Supporting the rural built and natural landscapes is fundamental to developing sustainable rural communities, which will in turn ensure that our valuable rural heritage is conserved and celebrated, both now and in the future.

“The challenge moving forwards will be to demonstrate how care for our heritage can contribute to Government’s environmental, economic and social objectives in rural areas.”

Notes for Editors

1. Defra’s Rural Strategy, launched in 2004 has three main priorities: economic and social regeneration, supporting enterprise across rural England; social justice for all, which involves tackling rural social exclusion and providing fair access to services and opportunities for rural communities; and finally enhancing the value of our countryside to safeguard the protection of the natural environment. Find out more about the Rural Strategy at

2. Defra’s next ERDP will be dedicated to achieving these aims and the Department will be working in close cooperation with English Heritage, and a range of other partners, to develop the programme. The England Rural Development Programme web pages are at


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