Guidance

Digital maps in the Rural Payments service - check and change mapping updates

Read how to check changes that have been made to your digital maps and what to do if you want to make changes.

Why mapping updates are needed

The European Commission requires every country operating Common Agricultural Policy schemes to proactively check land parcels against the latest information available. This means that the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is required to make sure that all land data on their systems is up to date.

Information the Rural Payments Agency uses to check if an update is needed

We check and update digital land maps using information from the latest available data sources. These include farm inspections and land imagery such as aerial photography and Ordnance Survey map updates as well as information received from customers. Read What we map for more information.

How RPA notifies you that they have updated a land parcel

It’s important that you check your digital maps online because we’ve reviewed and updated our mapping information, where necessary, since applications were made for Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) 2017. If we’ve updated your land parcels, you will have received notifications in the ‘Messages’ tab in the Rural Payments service identifying which land parcels have been updated.

If you have requested a change to your digital maps, either by calling us or by sending an RLE1 form and sketch map to us, we will write to you. We’ll either confirm that we’ve made the changes you requested or we’ll explain why they cannot be made.

When were digital land maps checked and updated?

Digital land maps were checked, updated and changes published between August and December for 2017, and between January and mid-March for 2018.

What you need to do

It is important that if you have received a notification through the Rural Payments service, you check your digital land maps and land parcel details. It is your responsibility to check your digital maps throughout the year and tell us if you do not agree with a change that we’ve made.

Changes we have made

What we map

RPA uses digital maps to record physical land parcel boundaries and features for land parcels which will be claimed on for some rural payments schemes. Find the list of these schemes and information on non-agricultural areas and features in the RLE1 guidance.

We define a land parcel as an area of land that is 0.0100 hectares or larger, and has physical boundaries.

Examples of physical boundaries are:

  • hedges, walls, rivers, drains, ditches, roads
  • obvious changes such as woodland next to grass
  • watercourses if wider than 4 metres can sometimes be used as a boundary
  • boundary stones and marker posts

Examples that we do not accept as boundaries:

  • natural paths
  • temporary boundaries such as:

    • temporary electric fences
    • plough lines
    • buffer areas between crops

Split land parcels

If a land parcel lies across a Less Favoured Area (LFA) boundary, we split the parcel on the digital map and record it as 2 separate parcels. The LFA boundaries are usually based on actual physical boundaries that are shown on Ordnance Survey maps. There are some exceptions to this.

Merged land parcels

We merge land parcels on the digital map when the permanent boundary is removed. Sometimes the boundary has not been removed but is not visible on aerial photos. In these cases we do not know the boundary has not been removed so we merge the land parcels based on the latest data we have – the aerial photos. We do not merge land parcels on the digital maps when the parcels are registered to different customers. In these cases the existing parcel boundaries on the digital map will not be changed.

Land cover

We record land cover on the digital maps but not land use. Land cover is not the same as land use. Land cover is a group of common land uses. There are a few cases where a land use has the same name as the land cover group – permanent grassland is an example of this.

The table below shows the 4 land cover groups and some examples of the land uses in each group:

Land cover Land use
Arable land Winter wheat - Spring barley - Temporary grassland
Permanent grassland Permanent grassland
Permanent crops Nursery crops - Short rotation coppice - Lavender
Non-agricultural area Farm building - Structure - Woodland

Converting temporary grassland to permanent grassland

In 2017, RPA reviewed land parcels which had been declared as temporary grassland for at least 5 years by 15 May 2017. In 2018, we changed our records for all those land parcels from temporary grassland to permanent grassland unless they were in an agri-environment agreement. We didn’t change the parcels that were in an agri-environment agreement because for some agreements the parcels had kept their arable status.

Order of the changes

From 2018, RPA will only use information that is no more than one year old to carry out mapping updates. We will review information from inspections and RLE1 forms as well as the latest land imagery. We will decide if a digital map needs to be updated based on the latest information we hold.

Where you can see the updates

When you receive a mapping update notification through the Rural Payments service you need to check your digital maps so that you know what changes we have made. Using the Rural Payments service, you can see digital maps of all the land parcels registered to your holding.

What you can expect to see

Some of the updates may seem small and we appreciate that you may find this inconvenient. However, updates such as boundary or area changes, land cover changes or split or merged parcels can be important and can affect your agreements and/or payments.

In some cases, we may have to temporarily remove a feature to make the update. In these cases, a feature may disappear from the ‘View land’ screen temporarily, but it reappears when the update is made.

For more information about scheme rules or how the changes might affect Natural England schemes or Forestry Commission legacy schemes read the following pages on GOV.UK:

How to check your digital land maps

You can see digital maps of all the land parcels registered to your holding using the Rural Payments service

  1. Go to: www.ruralpayments.service.gov.uk.
  2. From the ‘Business overview’ screen, click ‘Land’ then ‘View land’.
  3. To view individual land parcel details select the land parcel you need. The ‘Parcel details’ screen shows you a digital map and details of the land parcel. There is also a ‘Photo’ option as well as the ‘Map’ option.

If you believe the map or any of the details are incorrect check the map against the photo to see if they match. If the map and photo do not match you can call us.

Map and photo do not match

If we agree this is an error in the mapping work we will change it. If the mapping work is correct you will need to follow the instructions What to do if you do not agree with the updates.

If the map and photo match, the mapping process is correct.

Map and photo match

If you still believe the map or the details are incorrect because:

  • you have made changes to the land after the aerial photo was taken
  • you disagree with a change we have made

you need to request a change to your digital map. Read the information below.

If you are not sure why the change has been made, you can call us.

How to check and change your hedge information

This guidance explains how to check the information that RPA holds about hedges on your land and what to do if you need to make changes.

What to do if you do not agree with the updates

Requests for changes to your digital maps and land parcel details could affect payments you have already received as well as future payments. Only tell us about changes if you are sure they need to be made.

Land cover

There are 2 ways you can tell RPA about changes to your land cover.

  • If there is only one land cover for a land parcel, you can call us.
  • If there is more than one land cover for a land parcel, you must fill in an RLE1 form and send it to us with a sketch map clearly marked with the land covers and areas. You must also write ‘Mapping change query’ on your RLE1 form and sketch map.

If you want to tell us about several land parcels, each with only one land cover, it is better to fill in an RLE1 form than to call us.

Changes other than land cover

To tell RPA you do not agree with a change they’ve made you must fill in an RLE1 form and send it to RPA with relevant sketch maps. You can use the Rural Payments service to print maps of your land parcels. Information on how to mark changes on maps and how to fill in an RLE1 form is given in the RLE1 guidance.

You must also:

  • write on the RLE1 form and the sketch map ‘Mapping change query’ and mark the changes you would like to make – read ‘Do I need to send any evidence with my RLE1 form and sketch maps?’ for anything else that must be written on the sketch maps
  • mark on the RLE1 form and sketch map what scheme this update relates to (include which scheme year), such as the Basic Payment Scheme, a Countryside Stewardship application, an Environmental Stewardship Agreement
  • add the land parcel you are querying on the RLE1 form and the date when the change was made on the ground. If you believe there has never been a change to the land parcel please use 1 January 2015 as the effective date.

Adding or changing hedges

If you disagree with a length of hedge or hedge feature shown in your digital maps (or it is not shown) you only need to submit an RLE1 form and sketch map to RPA if you’re using hedges for any of the following:

  • as part of your ecological focus areas (EFA) greening requirements for BPS
  • applying to join the Countryside Stewardship scheme
  • submitting a claim against an existing Countryside Stewardship agreement

Hedges

The RLE1 form does not form part of your BPS or Countryside Stewardship application or Countryside Stewardship claim. Therefore, submit your application or claim first and on time. Make sure it is accurate and reflects what is on the ground. Then send your RLE1 form and sketch map to RPA before 6 July.

BPS application - if you disagree with a land parcel split or merge that RPA has made, and both of the following apply:

  • there is no overall change to the eligible area you are claiming
  • you are the only person claiming on the parcel(s)

you should:

  1. submit your BPS application using the parcel areas that have been mapped
  2. fill in an RLE1 form and send it with relevant sketch maps to RPA later in the year.

Do I need to send any evidence with my RLE1 form and sketch maps?

You do not need to send any specific evidence with your RLE1 form and sketch maps. However, you need to be absolutely sure that the changes you request are necessary and correct. We use the latest developments in aerial photography so we may need:

  • further evidence from you
  • to inspect the land parcel

before we accept the request for change.

If you believe that your request for changes is necessary then you need to send us your RLE1 form with your sketch maps.

To change a boundary, fill in the RLE1 form and send it with your sketch map clearly marked to show the boundary and write on what type of permanent boundary it is.

To add a non-agricultural area or feature, fill in the RLE1 form and send it with your sketch map clearly marked to show the non-agricultural area or feature.

To remove a non-agricultural area or feature, fill in the RLE1 form and send it with your sketch map. The sketch map should clearly show the non-agricultural area or feature with a cross marked through it. Write clearly on the map that you want to remove the area or feature.

There isn’t a deadline for sending your RLE1 form and sketch maps to tell us that you do not agree with a mapping change. We review every ‘Mapping change query’ RLE1 form that is received, however our focus is on making payments. This means depending on when you send your RLE1 form, it may take time to review your request.

Whether you have requested a change to your digital maps by calling us or by sending an RLE1 form and sketch maps to us, we will write to you. We’ll either confirm that we’ve made the changes you requested or we’ll explain why they cannot be made.

Contact RPA

Helpline 03000 200 301

Rural Payments Agency
PO Box 352
Worksop
S80 9FG

Published 12 March 2018
Last updated 28 March 2018 + show all updates
  1. Information about how to check and change hedges
  2. Image added - example of a map and photo that do not match. Image added - example of a map and photo that do match.
  3. First published.