Ex-post evaluation of the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) 2000-06

This study for Defra was undertaken by Hyderconsulting and ADAS, with the expert support of Janet Dwyer from CCRI. It sought to examine and document the impacts of the seven-year ERDP upon the economy, society and environment of rural England, and to consider the implications of these findings for the UK’s position on the future of European agricultural and rural policy.

The evaluation ran from the summer of 2008 to March 2009 and involved analysis of monitoring data, stakeholder consultations, partner workshops and a literature review. The study concluded that the ERDP had met or exceeded the majority of its targets, although institutional reorganization had slightly compromised the performance of the new agri-environment approach launched towards the end of the programme in 2005.

On the economic side, whilst the schemes were successful in their own terms, the overall modest scale of the programme appears unlikely to have had a major impact upon the rural economy as a whole, although almost one in six full-time farms may have benefited directly from ERDP ‘project’ funding. The study raised the question of whether a strategy based strongly upon funding environmental management is likely to represent best value for money in respect of promoting a sustainable rural economy-society-environment, through policy.