The West Midlands Farmsteads and Landscapes Project was conducted by English Heritage in collaboration with regional development agency Advantage West Midlands and local county and metropolitan authorities to help national and local decision-makers evaluate what future uses for farm buildings should be and to identify the most significant and vulnerable cases. For the first time at a regional level the Project has:
- Mapped and described the locations and characteristics of all farmsteads, their change over time, and how they relate to the landscape.
- Described the present day role of historic farmsteads in the West Midland’s economy.
- Developed a set of planning tools to inform spatial planning, land management and economic development.
The study has concluded that:
- Historic farmsteads are assets which make a significant and highly varied contribution to the rural building stock, landscape character and local distinctiveness of the West Midlands.
- Historic farmsteads are assets which, through agricultural and other new uses, have significant potential to make an important contribution to the rural economy and communities away from market towns and other rural centres. More than 80% of farmsteads recorded from late 19th century maps have survived, only one third of these in agricultural use. The economic benefits of residential use have until now been overlooked.
- This understanding can be used to inform positive approaches to shaping the character and economy of places, which are tailored to the future conservation and use of historic farmsteads.
English Heritage will use the results of this project to help decision-makers to unlock the potential of historic farmsteads, based on an understanding of variations in their local character and significance. Future change in historic farmsteads is inevitable if they are to be retained as a distinctive part of the rural landscape. Where it is fully informed, new uses can make a positive contribution to landscape character and inspire appropriate high-quality new development.
West Midlands Farmsteads and Landscapes Project Summary Report
This report summarises the overall results of the Project. It introduces the background to the project, and the national and economic context. The historic character of farmsteads is then summarised, followed by an analysis of the patterns of use and the policy and land use implications. Recommendations and next steps for further work are then outlined.
A Planning Tools Report: Tools for informing change at an area and site-based scale, in the form of an Area Assessment Framework for use in the development of planning guidance and land management, and a Site Assessment Framework for identifying key issues at the earliest possible stage when adaptive reuse or new build are being considered in the context of a historic farmstead.
Farmstead Character Statements: These comprise illustrated guidance in the form of:
A West Midlands Farmsteads Character Statement which outlines the character of farmsteads across the West Midlands, summarising their historical development, landscape and settlement context, the key farmstead and building types, and use of materials.
Area Farmsteads Character Statements which deepen this guidance and help the reader identify the key characteristics for the 23 National Character Areas that fall within or astride the West Midlands.
An Evidence Base
A Technical Report which provides a detailed statistical analysis of the patterns of farmstead use across the West Midlands, and their social and economic role.
The County Summary Reports (including the Central Conurbation) summarise the results of the project for each county, outlining the scale, survival and use of farmsteads for individual county and local authorities as well as the National Character Areas which fall within the West Midlands.
Each of these summary reports contain links to the fuller Farmstead Characterisation Reports which analyse the results of the farmsteads mapping against landscape character and type. The Central Conurbation has had to be differently treated, as it covers several metropolitan authorities.