The National Trust has warned that delays in the government scheme for heritage payments to farmers will put parts of Hadrian’s Wall, as well as other important historical sites, under threat.
The first phase of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), was launched last November with plans to reward farmers for “keeping their soil covered in winter and reducing runoff from their land to reduce water pollution.”
The SFI is part of a government plan to replace former European Union funding by 2024. However, there are now delays to this scheme which the National Trust says risk “erasing and damaging history.”
The second phase, which includes looking after drystone walls, burial grounds and traditional farm buildings was due to begin in the early part of this year. However, this has now been pushed back to as late as 2025.
Moreover, campaign groups are concerned that the scheme is only focusing on not damaging the land as oppose to preserving and improving historic sites such as Hadrian’s Wall.
Ingrid Samuel, director of historic environment at the National Trust, said:
“Pulling back the early introduction of the planned ‘heritage standard’ to 2025 shows that Defra has failed to understand how natural and cultural heritage is so closely linked to the agricultural landscape.
“More concerning is that there is only a requirement to protect against damage to historic features in the current plans.
“To do so would be to miss a unique opportunity to showcase the rich and distinctive heritage of our countryside while providing a wider public benefit”
“This announcement sees nature as a sideshow, and optional, but it also risks erasing or damaging history.”
Hadrian’s Wall is a hugely important part of our heritage in the North East, providing a window into the history and culture of Roman Britain. Let’s hope that it doesn’t become the next casualty of Brexit.