England's historic rural environment is an asset that must be
protected and treasured, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Knight said
Mr Knight, speaking at the launch of English Heritage's report
Heritage Counts, said that protecting buildings and other historic
sites and structures 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. ERPD
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."
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
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
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