Living & Working Countryside

A living and working countryside

The historic environment is an important asset in the economic development and regeneration of rural areas and has the potential to make an even greater contribution in the future.

The diversity of historic character in our rural landscapes, villages and market towns is fundamental to their strong sense-of-place and should be protected for its own sake.  This sense-of-place also contributes to community cohesion and underpins a quality of life which stimulates in-migration and significant inward investment, as well as providing a major asset for the tourism which is a significant contributor to rural economies.

Caring for the historic character of rural places does not mean preserving them unchanged, but rather ensuring that changes are carefully planned, well-designed and take account of local historic character.  English Heritage is committed to a living and working countryside as well one in which the historic environment is conserved, enhanced and recognised as important asset for communities.

Pressures arising from globalisation, agricultural intensification and poor quality or contextually illiterate development is eroding the historic character and local diversity of some rural landscapes.  Rural development projects, particularly community-based initiatives, have the potential to prevent and reverse this erosion of character and strengthen sense-of-place.

  • In deprived rural areas, particularly former industrial areas, interpretation and presentation of the industrial heritage can help to stimulate the local economy
  • Many traditional farm buildings are becoming functionally redundant as the economic basis of farming changes. Many have the potential to be converted to community, business or residential uses
  • Some places of worship face an uncertain future as the result of changes in rural communities and society at large. These also present opportunities for adaptive re-use
  • The distinctive character of historic market towns can provide a major asset for local businesses
  • As well as ensuring local distinctiveness is maintained, traditional craft skills provide important training and employment opportunities
  • An understanding of the character of rural settlements and local building styles will be an important factor in delivering high quality affordable rural housing which enhances local sense-of-place.

Rural development

EU rural development policy seeks to put in place a lasting framework for guaranteeing the future prosperity of rural areas and promoting the maintenance and creation of employment by:

  • strengthening the agricultural and forestry sector
  • improving the competitiveness of rural areas
  • preserving the environment and rural heritage

English Heritage is a stakeholder in the delivery of the administered by Defra and delivered by the Regional Development Agencies, Natural England and the Forestry Commission and through the community-based LEADER approach.

All Axes of the RDPE programme, including the Environmental Stewardship Scheme under Axis 2 have the potential to make a major contribution to local communities through conservation and enhancement of their cultural heritage.

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