The rules governing rural development policy for the period 2007 to 2013, as well as the policy measures available to Member States and regions, are set out in Council Regulation (EC) No. 1698/2005.
Under this Regulation, rural development policy for 2007 to 2013 is focused on three themes (known as "thematic axes"). These are:
improving the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sector;
improving the environment and the countryside; and
improving the quality of life in rural areas and encouraging diversification of the rural economy.
To help ensure a balanced approach to policy, Member States are obliged to spread their rural development funding between all three of these thematic axes.
A further requirement is that some of the funding must support projects based on experience with the Leader Community Initiatives. The "Leader approach" to rural development involves highly individual projects designed and executed by local partnerships to address specific local problems.
Each Member State must set out a rural development programme, which specifies what funding will be spent on which measures in the period 2007 to 2013.
Council Regulation on rural development 1698/2005: eur-lex.europa.eu
The rural development policies for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are set out here: ec.europa.eu
The review concluded that there is a common theme of environmental sustainability which cuts across the programme and a ‘primary focus on the generation of environmental public goods’.
The main focus of the RDPE is on Axis 2 - support for agri-environment schemes and forestry creation / management (which together account for around 80% of the RDPE budget).
There are also elements within both Axis 1 and 3, notably through promotion of resource efficiency and renewable energy (Measures 121, 122 and 123), provision of training to farmers entering agri-environment schemes (Measure 111) and in Axis 3, farm diversification (Measure 311) and support for the conservation of rural heritage (Measures 323) which support the environmental sustainability theme.
Some of the actions under the programme, including farm modernisation and
processing activity in Axis 1, and under farm diversification, microenterprise support and
development of tourism in Axis 3 are likely to lead to economic development which may have some negative environmental impacts, according to the report. This, they say, is the inherent challenge of sustainable development.
Within the Axes, they saw an opportunity to improve the value of the programme through better
linking together of measures. At present, much of the programme is delivered under discrete
‘schemes’. This effect is exacerbated by the division of the responsibility for delivery of the
programme between national and regional agencies. Natural England delivers agri-environment
schemes (AES) and the FC delivers forestry schemes across England; in contrast the socio-economic schemes (Axes 1, 3 and 4) were devolved to eight Regional Development
Agencies, but have now been taken in hand by Defra
They found some evidence of Axis 1 and 3 Measures targeting key needs such as water storage (East of England and South East regions), and specific sector support where this is spatially concentrated, notably horticulture and pigs. However, virtually all measures are available in all regions in response to a wide distribution of farming types, environmental assets and community development needs.
The Leader approach was designed to address localised need and opportunity and to
complement wider regional strategic priorities, with a view to implementing integrated schemes
and to creating synergies between Axes 1, 2 and 3.
However, the Leader approach in England has largely been focused on delivering Axis 3 (quality of life) measures with limited contribution to axis 1 and no role in Axis 2. This has limited the overall contribution of Leader in terms of synergies between axes, although some advisory groups (LAGs) have embraced the sustainability theme within the constraints of the measure rules.
Leader has contributed to coherence between Measures and objectives across axes but more could be done through agencies working together to link projects at a local level.
Approximately two-thirds of the entire RDPE budget in England is committed to Measures 214 and 216 (Environmental Stewardship and classic AES schemes), focused on payments to farmers and land managers in return for delivery of environmental and landscape public goods (above and beyond the regulatory baseline). This has necessarily limited the scale of intervention under the other axes and measures.
The review found that, while this focus on AES can be justified on the basis that no other programme can support these outcomes on this scale, RDPE represents only one
element of support under the CAP and in the UK a small share of total support. A better balance
of funding between the pillars would allow greater scope for meeting the socio-economic
objectives of the Regulation as well as the environmental objectives.
The bulk of the evidence for maintaining and improving the environmental benefits of
ES relates to biodiversity and habitats.
Evidence for large-scale impacts on biodiversity is absent as yet, it is difficult to attribute changes to the impact of the RDPE. However, a number of improvements in biodiversity have been documented and a number of changes to the scheme have been made that have the potential to deliver biodiversity benefits at a larger scale.
Atribution of the benefits to soil and water quality to ES is also difficult. Evidence of the benefits to these objectives is fairly limited and uncertain, recognising that the options were not designed
with these soil and water objectives in mind. Water and soil quality benefits should result from ES but significant improvements may be difficult without large changes to farming systems.
It is difficult to show the influence of ES on landscape, but it is clear that ELS and HLS play important roles in maintaining the landscape including the historic environment.
Whilst mitigating climate change is not a primary objective of Measure 214 it is one of the three EU priority area and it is recognised that this Measure can contribute. The evidence is clear that ES has a role in mitigating climate change. The calculations for CO2e mitigated are a
step in the right direction but need to account for actual area under management.
The SRDP is a programme of economic, environmental and social measures, utilising some €680m of European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development funding plus Scottish Government match funding.
Measures are delivered through:
Crofting Counties Agricultural Grant Scheme
Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation Grant Scheme
Forestry Commission Challenge Funds
The LEADER initiative
Less Favoured Area Support Scheme
Rural Development Contracts, and
Skills Development Scheme
Individuals and groups may seek support to help deliver the Government's strategic objectives in rural Scotland.
The Scotland Rural Development Programme 2007-13 includes measures to address economic and social goals as well as environmental measures.