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Historic Farmstead Characterisation

Historic Farmsteads and Landscapes in Worcestershire

Historic farmsteads and their buildings contribute to local distinctiveness and the varied character of our countryside by reflecting local geology, building traditions and farming practices. The future of the majority of historic farm buildings is increasingly dependent on a new role outside mainstream agricultural use. 

Since 2009 Worcestershire County Council has been involved with a series of projects aimed at enhancing understanding of farmstead character and survival within Worcestershire, and the wider West Midlands region. The council has developed a conservation guidance that can be used to inform the sustainable development or re-development of historic farmsteads and their landscapes. The work undertaken will also be of significance to those with an interest in the history and character of the county’s landscape, settlements and historic buildings.


Small scale farmstead

Small-scale farmsteads and smallholdings, associated with the development of rural industries from the 17th century and fruit growing, which boomed during the 19th century, in Buckridge, Wyre Forest. Photo © English Heritage NMR 27765/001

Projects include

Historic Farmstead Characterisation in Worcestershire Project

The Worcestershire Historic Farmstead Characterisation Project aimed to develop a better understanding of farmstead character, survival and current use, at a landscape scale, by recording the distribution, scale, plan form (the arrangement and function of buildings), date (if known) and the degree of change of all farmsteads and outfarms shown on the Ordnance Survey 2nd Edition 25" mapping of circa 1900. The project followed the methodology set out in 'Historic Farmsteads – A Manual for Mapping' and produced a Geographical Information System (GIS) map layer incorporating over 5000 sites.

The project was funded by English Heritage and the Rural Development Agency (Advantage West Midlands), as part of a wider project mapping historic farmsteads across the West Midlands region and was intended to

  • Inform land use policy and planning
  • Develop the information held within the Worcestershire Historic Environment Record
  • Inform local development frameworks and provide the context and guidance for applications relating to the sustainable development of historic farmsteads, including their conservation and enhancement
  • Contribute towards the understanding of the sustainability of rural settlements
  • Inform agri-environment targeting and applications.

Historic Farmsteads – A Manual for Mapping

Worcestershire Historic Farmsteads Characterisation Project Report

The West Midlands Farmsteads and Landscapes Project

The West Midlands Farmsteads and Landscapes Project, conducted by Historic England in collaboration with regional development agency Advantage West Midlands and local county and metropolitan authorities drew together the results of county and metropolitan Farmstead Characterisation projects at a regional scale, to help national and local decision-makers describe the present day role of historic farmsteads in the West Midland’s economy, evaluate what the future uses for farm buildings should be, identify the most significant and vulnerable cases and develop a set of planning tools to inform spatial planning, land management and economic development.

The project 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 across the region, 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.

A series of documents were produced as a result of this project, including the 'West Midlands Farmsteads and Landscapes Project Regional Statement', 'Current Use of Historic Farm Property in the West Midlands: Introduction and Overview' and the 'West Midlands Area Farmstead Character Statements'.

Worcestershire Farmsteads Assessment Guidance Toolkit

The Worcestershire Farmsteads Assessment Guidance Toolkit aims to inform and achieve the sustainable development of historic farmsteads, including their conservation and enhancement.  The guidance will help to develop the objectives for sustainable development in rural areas which are set out in both national and local planning policy. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) places good design, the enhancement of local distinctiveness and conservation of the historic environment at the heart of sustainable development and good planning. The guidance also covers the checklist for Prior Approval required by the local planning authority in advance of conversion under the General Permitted Development Order.

Using this guidance at the earliest stage in establishing development proposals will:

  • Help get the proposed design right for sensitive sites and buildings.
  • Save time and costs before preparing a detailed application for development and other consents, such as listed building consent.
  • Ensure that an application complies with national plan policy, and also local plan policies (including the neighbourhood plan if relevant) regarding landscape, the historic environment, neighbourhood issues, biodiversity, siting and design.
  • Identify where professional advice and support, and perhaps more detailed survey, would be beneficial to a site to ensure significance is retained.

The Farmstead Assessment Framework consists of the following five documents

1. The Worcestershire Farmstead Assessment Framework

This provides a step-by-step approach to considering the reuse of traditional farm buildings and the sustainable development of farmsteads, through identifying their historic character, significance and potential for change.
The guidance will help to identify the need and potential for change and then prepare a scheme based on considering:

  • The landscape context, including its boundaries and the potential that it offers as a habitat for wildlife.
  • The whole site, including its form and scale, and where buildings are situated relative to historic and modern spaces on the site, routeways and the surrounding landscape.
  • The extent of historic change to the whole site and its landscape context, including where traditional buildings and farmyards have been lost or redeveloped. This can inform opportunities to retain and reveal the significance of historic buildings and spaces, reinstate lost features and buildings or develop parts of the site.
  • The architectural patterning present in building styles, materials and details which are important to maintaining or enhancing the character of the farmstead, including the siting and design of any new buildings.

Download the Worcestershire Farmstead Assessment Framework

2. The Worcestershire Farmsteads Character Statement

This has an introductory summary followed by fully-illustrated guidance on the county’s farmsteads

Download the Worcestershire Farmsteads Character Statement

3. Guidance on Recording and Research

This will help applicants and local authorities to consider the most appropriate level for the recording of a site, either in support of an application or, once permission has been secured, to make a record during the implementation of a scheme.

Download the Worcestershire Farmsteads Recording and Research Guidance

4. Farmstead Character Area Summaries

The areas, into which the county subdivides, based on analysis of its farmsteads in their landscape context.

Download the Worcestershire Farmsteads Character Area Summaries

5. Local Authority Summaries

A summary for planners and applicants in each of the county's local planning authorities.