Farming in Protected Landscapes in the Blackdown Hills AONB

Defra is introducing a new Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, which will run from July 2021 to March 2024.

Protected Landscapes – National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) – are special and unique places. They are living, working landscapes that also support a huge range of habitats and species, and they are enjoyed by millions of people every year. By supporting the farmers, land managers and people who live and work in these areas, we can help protect these exceptional places and support local communities.

Through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, farmers and land managers can be supported to carry out projects that support nature recovery, mitigate the impacts of climate change, provide opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and cultural heritage, or support nature-friendly, sustainable farm businesses. This is a programme of funding for one-off projects covering these areas of work, not an agri-environment scheme.

The programme is part of Defra’s Agricultural Transition Plan. It has been developed by Defra with the support of a group of AONB and National Park staff from across the country.

In the Blackdown Hills AONB, we will be awarding approximately £240k this financial year (2021/22) with more funding available up until the end of March 2024.


The Farming in Protected Landscapes programme is open to all farmers and land managers (including from the private, public and charity sector) in a National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Norfolk Broads – or where activity on the ground can bring benefit to one or more of those areas.

You must manage all the land included in the application and have control of all the activities you’d like to undertake, or you must have written consent from all parties who have this management and control.

Other organisations and individuals can apply, as long as they do this in collaboration with a farmer or land manager, or in support of a farmer or group of farmers.

Common land is eligible for support through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme. You can apply as a landowner with sole rights, or as a group of commoners acting together.

Farming in Protected Landscapes supports activity on any land within the Blackdown Hills AONB. It can also support activity on other land where projects can demonstrate benefit to the Blackdown Hills, or Blackdown Hills AONB’s objectives or partnership initiatives. Most of the funding will probably be provided to projects within the AONB boundary.

You can see the boundary by visiting the Magic Map website. Click on ‘designations’, ‘land-based designations’ and then [‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty England’ (remove the ticks all the other options) .

Blackdown Hills AONB map

Payment rates

If an applicant will not make a commercial gain through a project, they could receive up to 100% of the costs.

Where an applicant would benefit commercially from a project, they could receive between 40% and 80% of the costs through the Programme, depending on how much commercial benefit the project will give them.

The Programme will work alongside – not in competition with – Defra’s existing and new schemes, adding value where it is most needed. If a potential project can be rewarded through those schemes instead, you will be made aware of them.

If an activity is equivalent to one under Countryside Stewardship (CS), the Programme payment rate will be the same as the CS rate. If not, we will base Programme funding offers on the projected costs of an activity (with final payments made against evidenced costs).

Maintenance agreements

Capital infrastructure assets (including, but not limited to, fences, gates, building restoration), should be maintained for 5 years from the date of completion.

Machinery assets (for example a brush harvester for grassland restoration) should be maintained for 5 years from the date of purchase.

The requirement to maintain natural, cultural and access activities (for example, management of grassland, restoration of a limekiln) delivered as part of programme will cease no later than 1 April 2024.

Blackdown Hills AONB heather

How to apply

Please read Defra’s guidance for Farming in Protected Landscapes applicants [docx download]

Before applying, we encourage you to complete this enquiry form. Our new farmer engagement officer will then get in touch to discuss your application. Ideally, they will visit your potential project location or meet you to discuss your ideas.

Applications for the first year of programme funding should be made between 1 July 2021 and 31 January 2022. Funding will be awarded to successful applicants throughout the application window, rather than after the window closes, so you should submit your application as soon as it is ready.
We will also consider applications for funding in year 2, especially if they aim to begin early in the financial year.

Multi-year awards are possible for longer projects. All projects must end by March 2024.

What Farming in Protected Landscapes will pay for

The Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme will pay for projects that, in the opinion of the Local Assessment Panel (see ‘Application assessment’ below) provide value for money and meet at least one of the outcomes listed below, under four themes.

Climate outcomes

  • More carbon is stored and/or sequestered
  • Flood risk is reduced
  • Farmers, land managers and the public better understand what different habitats and land uses can store carbon and reduce carbon emissions
  • The landscape is more resilient to climate change

Nature outcomes

  • There is a greater area of habitat improved for biodiversity
  • There is an increase in biodiversity
  • There is greater connectivity between habitats
  • Existing habitat is better managed

People outcomes

  • There are more opportunities for people to explore, enjoy and understand the landscape
  • There are more opportunities for more diverse audiences to explore, enjoy and understand the landscape
  • There is greater public engagement in land management, such as through volunteering
  • Farmers and land managers feel increasingly comfortable with providing public goods

Place outcomes

  • The quality and character of the landscape is reinforced or enhanced
  • Historic structures and features are conserved, enhanced or interpreted more effectively
  • There is an increase in farm business resilience

A Nature Recovery Area Delivery Plan has been produced to help direct investments in nature recovery (and climate) restoration work, including through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme. Potential applicants can use the document to help shape their project, and as it forms a part of the Local Statement of Priorities it is a key consideration in the scoring of applications.

Your project must also help to deliver at least one of the objectives of the Blackdown Hills AONB Management Plan

For example, the programme might support:

  • Re-wiggling a straightened watercourse, for the biodiversity and natural flood management benefits this can bring
  • Replacing stiles with gates on public footpaths to promote easier access
  • Creating ponds to support a variety of wildlife
  • Restoring habitats and promoting connectivity between them to allow species movement, for example restoring field boundaries
  • Increase woodland cover including trees outside woodlands
  • Creating and promoting a series of farm walks across a cluster of farms, providing new access opportunities, links to the rights of way network and interpretation of farming and of the natural and historic features on the land
  • Conserving historic features on a farm, such as lime kilns or mining heritage
  • Parking improvements at a key site provide safe access to popular walking routes and reduces congestion for visitors and for local residents
  • A pop-up camping facility, alongside the provision of new walking trails and on site activities, including e.g. stargazing and dawn chorus walks
  • Supporting a locally-branded food initiative which promotes the links between the product and the landscape in which it is produced
  • Re-wilding an area of land and promoting natural processes
  • Action to reduce carbon emissions on a farm
  • Whole farm planning for conservation, energy efficiency and economic resilience, including in farmer clusters
  • Gathering data and evidence to help inform conservation and farming practice
  • Accessing farm business advice
  • Working with new audiences to enable them to experience the Protected Landscape
Cattle drinking point made with stone
Longhorn cattle standing in front of a tree
Hazel dormouse perching on a twig amongst leaves

Application assessment

Applications for over £5,000 will be judged by a Local Assessment Panel. This kind of system has been used locally before for the Blackdown Hills AONB ‘Sustainable Development Fund’.

The Local Assessment Panel will be made up of 8 to 12 people. It will include representatives from Blackdown Hills AONB, Natural England, representatives from the farming and land management community, and natural and historic heritage specialists.

Our first panel is expected to meet in autumn 2021. Thereafter we expect that the panel will meet to make decisions every six to eight weeks.

Applications for less than £5,000 will be decided upon by a senior member of the AONB team (who has no prior knowledge of the project).

More information

Field patterns, hedges and hedgerow trees at Dumpdon

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