Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by English Heritage

English Heritage is Government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment. Although we are sponsored by DCMS, we work closely with Defra and its agencies, particularly Natural England, to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the historic and natural aspects of the environment. Through our own statutory responsibilities we have a particular interest in landscape and would therefore like to offer the following comments on the Natural Environment White Paper:

1. Landscape.

We welcome acknowledgement within the White Paper of the inter-relationship between cultural landscapes and nature, with nature being described as embracing landscapes which are themselves “the result of thousands of years of interaction between people and nature”.

In this context, however, English Heritage considers that the lack of any reference to the Florence (European Landscape) Convention, for which Defra is the lead body within Government, is a regrettable omission. We believe landscape, as defined by the convention, provides an important integrative concept, bringing together the cultural and natural interests in land and land use, as well as recognising the interests of communities. With the Convention’s emphasis upon “landscapes, as perceived by people”, we would suggest that it has the potential to provide a more people-focussed framework for securing public engagement in Defra’s land-based and environmental policies than, for example, water catchment areas or ecosystems.

2. New Local Nature Partnerships.

We note the proposals for more integrated advice through partnerships, with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commission participating in the “Single Voice” initiative. In this context, we welcome the White Paper’s statement that “Where appropriate, they will work in partnership with English Heritage, which also has statutory responsibilities for landscape management”.

We believe it is very important for Government to find ways to bring together the landscape interests of Defra and DCMS at a high level. Without this we have some concerns that the “Single Voice” initiative might actually widen the gap between the provision of advice on the natural and historic environments.

3. Protecting and Improving Woodland and Forests.

We welcome the White Paper’s acknowledgement of the cultural and heritage value of ancient woodland, although we consider that these values also extend—and should be recognized—across the entire public forest estate and in forestry policy in general. In respect of the need to better integrate environmental objectives—specifically the management of existing woodland and the creation of new woodland—we are concerned that the Independent Forestry Panel’s terms of reference make no mention of the cultural heritage of woodland as a public benefit.

4. Diverse and Living Landscapes.

English Heritage strongly endorses the intention to update and improve the National Landscape Character area profiles and we are working with Natural England to achieve this.

We note, however, that the ecosystems services approach is now envisaged as a key attribute of these profiles and, in this context, we are concerned that the White Paper’s definition of cultural services (and cultural heritage) is too narrow, focussing solely on benefits which are non-material in nature. Whilst our cultural landscapes certainly do generate non-material goods, they also have a more direct economic value, by underpinning tourism, inward investment, and local branding etc. We are concerned this is not adequately recognised in the White Paper.

5. Phasing out Peat Extraction.

We welcome the proposals to protect and restore peatlands, which are an important repository of some of the UK’s most important archaeological sites and unparalleled evidence for past environmental change. We would therefore strongly encourage the Peat Task Force to engage with the historic environment community in its work and we would like to see the shortest possible timetable for the complete phasing out of UK extraction, as well as measures to discourage extraction overseas.

21 June 2011

Prepared 16th July 2012