Peter Gaskell presented a paper at the 24th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists,which took place in Barcelona in early September.

As part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage the EAA held sessions and round tables on cultural heritage policies in Europe. Peter made a presentation in the session entitled ‘Making the case: collating and using evidence on the value of rural heritage to influence EU and domestic policy’.

Land use issues such as agricultural production, farm restructuring and forestry continue to be the biggest causes of degradation and loss to Europe’s rural heritage. Although these impacts have been recognised and in some cases mitigated by programmes such as the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, cultural heritage generally has not figured prominently within EU policy, nor has its conservation been accorded the same priority as that of the natural environment. Policy relies upon evidence and making the case for rural heritage is reliant upon demonstrating not only the challenges it faces – but also identifying the scale of these problems and the socio-economic value that conserving it might bring. The session had contributions from across Europe and looked at what types of evidence has already been collected, how has it been used and what more can done to make progress in this area.

Peter’s paper was entitled ‘Determining the impact and value of heritage conservation under CAP agri-environment schemes’ and considered that for over 30 years Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funded agri-environment schemes (AES) have been a major source of investment for the conservation and management of the rural historic environment. However, research to determine the impacts of AES on the conservation and management of the rural historic environment has tended to focus on specific features within specific schemes over limited time periods. This has resulted in many isolated reports and the fragmentation of the evidence base which is a barrier to effective AES policy making. There is an urgent need for research that draws together this disparate evidence and provides an overview and evaluation of the impact of AES on the rural historic environment. This paper traced the evolution of CAP AES policy from 1986 to the present day. It compiled and summarised research that has investigated the impacts of AES on a range of historic environment features. It concluded with an evaluation of the evidence base and made recommendations for future monitoring and evaluation.

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