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Assessing the role of advice and support in the establishment of HLS agreements - LM0433

Experience suggests that the provision of appropriate advice and support to agri-environment agreement holders, as part of the agreement development process, can: help to ensure appropriate option choices, improve agreement holder understanding, lay foundations for effective agreement delivery and, potentially, improve agreement outcomes. There is an urgent need to assemble more evidence of the impact of advice and support on agreement establishment, in order to inform delivery of agri-environment schemes under the next Rural Development Programme.

In response to the recommendations of the Making Environmental Stewardship More Effective project (MESME) Natural England (NE) is implementing new internal guidelines for the development and operational delivery of Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreements. This new guidance has been in place since February 2013.

To ensure that a consistent approach is taken to this new guidance, consider any issues which arise and identify best practice, NE will carry out a rolling programme of internal, desk based, quality assurance (QA) exercise, commencing in April 2013 and continuing for approximately 10 months. Primarily it will focus on new agreements, with a QA check being carried out 1 month after agreement establishment.

In order to provide supporting evidence for the quality of agreement establishment, NE wish to commission the following work to complement and run alongside the internal QA exercise.
1.An investigation of:
•the appropriateness of agreement establishment, based on field observations and
•the extent of agreement holder understanding of and engagement with intended agreement outcomes, obtained through interviews.
2.Comparative analysis of the findings of this investigation and of the NE QA exercise.

The project will mirror the 10 month period of the NE QA exercise.
It is intended that this project and the QA exercise will, together, provide an initial indication of:
•the appropriateness of option placement, given the physical assets of the holding and the local targeting objectives, intended agreement outcomes and management prescriptions,
•agreement holder understanding of, engagement with and attitude towards agreement requirements, intended agreement outcomes and management prescriptions,
•the quality of agreement establishment as a foundation for future delivery,
•the impact of agreement holder understanding and engagement and quality of agreement establishment on the potential to achieve agreement outcomes.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : LM0433 final report   (2667k)
• TPS - Two Page Summary : LM0433 two page summary   (264k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2013

To: 2014

Cost: £212,400
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Environmental Stewardship