Natural England Monitoring & Evaluation Framework Research (2012-2025)

Since 2012, the CCRI has been involved in an on-going series of themed research projects aimed at supporting the development and implementation of Natural England’s agri-environment schemes.

Natural England – Monitoring & Evaluation: Phase One 2012-2016

Between 2012-2016 CCRI was part of a consortium with ADAS, Fera and Environment Systems Ltd to provide research to support the delivery, monitoring and evaluation of the Environmental Stewardship programme run by Natural England.  

England’s agri-environment schemes (AES) receive funding from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), and a condition of this funding is that schemes are continually assessed through a planned national programme of monitoring and evaluation. The Agri-Environment Monitoring and Evaluation Programme is a joint programme delivered by Natural England and the Environment Agency on behalf of Defra, with input from the Forestry Commission and Historic England. The programme is funded through the RDPE Technical Assistance Fund. The period of this framework covers two AES programmes:

  • Environmental Stewardship (ES) – open to applications between 1991 and 2014, it consisted of two tiers, Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) aiming for high coverage of basic options, and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) with more demanding options targeted to features of high environmental value.
  • Countryside Stewardship (CS) – open to applications from 2015. The first agreements started 1st Jan 2016. Like ES, the scheme consists of two tiers, a Mid-Tier (MT) and a Higher Tier (HT).
CCRI were involved in a number of research projects during this first phase, including:

Natural England – Monitoring & Evaluation: Phase Two 2017-2021

A second framework was developed as a follow-on under the broad theme of monitoring and evaluation of agri-environment scheme agreements (currently Environmental Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship) and the corresponding progress of the environmental and social metrics addressed by those agreements, both individually and collectively, towards the scheme’s objectives.  

The Countryside and Environmental Stewardship agri-environment schemes are a key component of the Government’s sustainable agriculture and rural development policies. They provide a framework and financial support that reimburses land managers for income forgone plus the costs of carrying out voluntary management changes that reduce impact on, or enhance England’s countryside and its wildlife, landscapes, historic features and natural resources (soils and water).

The schemes operated under the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) 2014-2020.  This changed in 2021 when the UK left the EU with all of the funding for the programmes coming from the UK government. 

CCRI were involved in a number of research projects during this second phase, including:
Current projects under this framework include:
  • The fourth phase of evaluating the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund.
  • Together with LUC and Research Box, the CCRI is leading a project looking at the way in which the public engage with landscapes and how they view potential changes under AES agreements.
  • LUC are leading a project involving ESL and CCRI looking at differences within similar landscapes which are managed under AES and those which are not. 
  • CCRI are working on a project that will evaluate the full impact of the Countryside Stewardship Historic Building Restoration Grant Pilot Scheme.