The Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs), Countryside Access (CAS) and Countryside Stewardship (CSS) Schemes were launched in 1987, 1994 and 1996 respectively as part of the UK's agri-environment programme. In seeking to encourage environmentally beneficial and sustainable farming, emphasis has also been placed upon the provision of new and improved opportunities for the public to enjoy the countryside protected under these schemes.
The three schemes aim to provide access for quiet recreation which is in keeping with the countryside. Agreements cover sites which are near or include a feature of landscape, historical or wildlife interest, or a vantage point; are situated on the outskirts of a town or village; link two or more rights of way; or provide a new circular walk. Cycling and horseriding are provided for at some sites, whilst the CSS provides access for the disabled.
The general aim of this evaluation is to assess the performance of the access provisions of three agri-environment schemes (Countryside Access, Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas) in England, principally at the level of the individual agreement.