Natural England - Uplands Delivery Review Programme

Uplands Delivery Review Programme

The uplands are a hugely significant natural resource not only in terms of the beautiful landscapes and wildlife that they support - upland soils are the largest carbon store in England and 70% of the UK’s drinking water is collected from upland catchments - but also because of the opportunities they provide for people as places of employment, enjoyment and solace, and for the range of other services that these areas provide.

upland bog

Upland bog, Cumbria © Paul Glendell
Natural England

We are carrying out a review of the evidence as part of a wider Natural England Upland Delivery Review Programme which aims to help us to strengthen our working relationships with those who own and actively manage the uplands.

Natural England’s Uplands Evidence Review

What does the Upland’s Evidence Review address?

This review relates to the evidence on biodiversity and ecosystem services in the uplands, and the impact of land management activities upon them. It covers five main topics, chosen because they are areas where Natural England currently receives significant challenge:

  • Impacts of tracks and vehicle use on soil structure and hydrology and their impacts on biodiversity.
  • Impacts of managed burning on peatland biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Appropriate management regimes for sustaining biodiversity in upland hay meadows.
  • Determination of environmentally sustainable stocking regimes on moorland.
  • Feasibility of restoring degraded blanket bog including areas such as drainage, vegetation cover (peat forming species), and climate change.

For detailed information about the topics that the review will address, see Natural England Review of Upland Evidence 2012 – Scoping Document: (474kb)pdf document.

Natural England’s response to the stakeholder consultation: (266kb)pdf document that influenced the development of the review questions.

The review groups and independent expert reviewers' biographies.

Why is Natural England undertaking a review of our upland evidence?

In March 2011 Defra published the Government’s review of uplands policy which sets out a range of actions the Government, led by Defra, will take in partnership with others in the public, private and voluntary sectors to help secure a sustainable future for the English uplands.

Natural England has a specific role in helping deliver the Uplands Policy Review; in particular through our research and evidence based advice, our delivery of agri-environment schemes and our partnership work with the hill farming and moorland management sector and rural communities to deliver a wide range of public goods and environmental benefits in the uplands.

For these reasons it is important that our advice and decisions are based on sound evidence, and that our evidence processes are transparent and robust. To help us to ensure that this is the case, we have decided to carry out a review of the evidence that we use to formulate our advice and decisions in the uplands. This is part of a wider Natural England Upland Delivery Review Programme which we hope will help us to strengthen our working relationships with those who own and actively manage the uplands.

How is Natural England approaching the review?

A review group for each topic will work closely with specialist librarian staff to conduct independent searches of databases and any other sources. Their findings, together with evidence submitted by external stakeholders, will form the evidence base to be examined for that topic.

The review will be carried out with the help of a number of academics and practitioners who have expertise in the topic areas. The evidence for each topic will be considered by a review group which consists of two independent external experts together with one of Natural England’s Heads of Profession. Each of these review groups will then report to an overall assurance group which will consist of two independent experts, an independent chair and our Chief Scientist. There will be opportunities for stakeholders to input at a number of stages as the review progresses.

Our approach to the review will be set out in detail in Natural England Evidence Reviews: development process and methods document. This methodology is under development and we will make it public in due course.

The review groups and independent expert reviewers' biographies.

When will the review report?

We will complete the exercise by the end of 2012 when we will publish a report on our website.

How will the review inform our advice?

The outcomes of the evidence review will feed into the broader process of developing Natural England’s advice to land owners and managers and will feed into other areas such as Defra’s policy work. It is worth noting that the evidence base is rarely complete and unequivocal so we will need to work with Defra and partners to consider how significant gaps and uncertainties in evidence are dealt with. Even where the evidence base is robust, there is rarely just one way to achieve an objective. Practical considerations, including social and economic factors, are critical to developing advice and these vary from one place to another. 

Natural England hopes that practitioners with knowledge and experience in these areas will work with them to develop their advice once the evidence review has reported. This diagram: (118kb)pdf document illustrates the various stages in the development of Natural England’s advice.

How to contribute evidence

If you would like to submit evidence, or know of potential sources of evidence that relate to one or all of the five topics, we would be happy to hear from you. In order to manage the gathering and review of evidence, we have decided to take a phased approach as detailed below.

The deadline for submission of evidence relating to the first three topics is 20 July 2012. These topics are:

  • Impacts of tracks and vehicle use on soil structure and hydrology and their impacts on biodiversity.
  • Impacts of managed burning on peatland biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Appropriate management regimes for sustaining biodiversity in upland hay meadows.

The deadline for submission of evidence relating to the last two topics is 14 September 2012:

  • Determination of environmentally sustainable stocking regimes on moorland.
  • Feasibility of restoring degraded blanket bog including areas such as drainage, vegetation cover (peat forming species), and climate change.

We hope that this approach will make it easier for individuals and organisations who wish to submit evidence around more than one subject.

Please send a completed evidence submission form: (606kb)word document relating to any of the phase two review topics together with a copy of the evidence to neuplandsevidencereview@naturalengland.org.uk by 14 September 2012.

For information about who Natural England alerted about the call for evidence - see our distribution list: (86kb)pdf document.

Further information