Group of people on a hillside
Group of people on a hillside

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Jenny  Walking Sheep Up Street
Jenny Walking Sheep Up Street

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Beekeepers examining a frame of bees
Beekeepers examining a frame of bees

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Group of people on a hillside
Group of people on a hillside

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Two of the key questions for this ELM Test & Trial were to identify a land management plan which worked for home farms and commons and to explore a payment by results approach.

The answer our Advisory Team of farmers/commoners and landowners gave to both was to use a scorecard system to provide a clear framework for how to deliver public goods and to assess the outcomes. This would then be supported by farmer led mapping and optional advice.

We tested a first iteration of the scorecard earlier in the summer (the results are available in our blog archive). We got a lot of detailed feedback which we brought together, reviewed and then produced version 2 of the scorecard.

Some of the main changes/tweaks were:

  • Based on feedback from farmers testing version 1 we edited the questions to improve them, reduce any repetition and just try and make the whole thing more useable. We also restructured it thematically.

  • James Moran, who has developed a number of scorecards used in Ireland, proposed that a some of our question, more related to management, be pulled out into a separate questionnaire section. A model where farmers/commoners would be paid for their time in answering the questionnaire, the results of which inform the scheme, but not paid for what their answers reveal about their farming practices. This is very different from version 1 when every question answer would be linked to a payment.

  • We introduced negative scoring - taking points off people for actions damaging to the delivery of public goods. With version 1 of the scorecard we'd tried to avoid scoring people negatively as much as possible based on the hypothesis that this would be perceived negatively by participants. In fact feedback suggested that some participants thought negative scoring for damaging activities would be fair so we thought we'd test it out with version 2.

  • We made some visual adjustments, colour coding questions and putting in more images to support answering questions.

You can download scorecard version 2 for the full details:

Scorecard V2
Download XLSX • 1.05MB

We also provided a map to use in conjunction with the scorecard. Funding from this T&T has gone to working with the University of Exeter, through the SWEEP initiative, to develop a satellite based mapping tool for Dartmoor.

One of the issues we identified early in the T&T is the challenge of regularly, affordably and consistently mapping the Dartmoor landscape. The system developed by Exeter makes this possible at a very low cost using a system which is programmed to translate satellite images into UKHab categories. This meant we could easily generate habitat maps for every farm and common involved as well as using other data sets to show information related to the scorecard, such as heritage assets. The slide show below shows an example of the types of map which were produced for each holding in the trial.

Testing both scorecard version 2 and the maps the key findings were:

  • A majority of participants felt version 2 was an improvement.

  • People were happy for some questions to be moved into a 'questionnaire' rather than payment by results section if it helped the scheme identify where to target capital grants. However, almost as many people felt all the questions should remain part of the payment by results element.

  • All but one of the participants favoured the use of negative scoring.

  • A majority felt this was the right approach for ELM and the details just needed fine tuning.

  • A clear majority felt that using the maps, even though they're, at best, 75% accurate, would still help them identify where to locate different habitats on the farm to use the scorecard. Furthermore, 16 out of 17 trial home farms also felt the maps would help them monitor habitat change over time. Participants were entirely positive about the potential to use the maps to pre-populate some of the scorecard answers but 100% of participants felt that they would only want to use that approach if data could be easily corrected where necessary.

We also asked participants about the kind of advice they might like to use with the system, who should provide it and who should pay for it.

Participants valued access to a wide range of different advice models and there was a general preference that advice should be funded entirely by Defra, with some exceptions. Defra was also the preferred provider for the more generic forms of advice, such as online guidance and support. When it came to in person advice the Dartmoor Hill Farm Project was a preferred provider but environmental charities and private consultants were valued for delivering specialist advice.

Download the full survey results and comments:

Scorecard Version 2 Accompanying Questions Results
Download PDF • 53KB

One of the objectives of Dartmoor's ELM Test & Trial was to explore how private finance might be incorporated into ELM. We wanted to gain an understanding of what outcomes funders were most interested in supporting, what model would support farmers within a landscape to attract funding and the advice and facilitation farmers would need.

We had some initial conversations with the Advisory Team about how to approach private finance last year. There was a lot of uncertainty about the best way forward and it was determined that running through a practical example and extracting the learning would be the best approach.

So, we've been working with the Postbridge Cluster group to do exactly that. The group represents about 1o holdings and has been in existence for a couple of years, with support from the Dartmoor Hill Farm Project. They've put together a landscape vision across their holdings which we took out to a range of funders to see what offers would come back.

We then got together with the Postbridge group to look at the offers and what they' learnt from this process about how farmers can best be supported to engage with private finance. Here are the notes from that workshop:

Summary of first impressions of funding offers:

  • As tenants we think landlord may not want to part with carbon credits

  • No natural regen support is disappointing

  • We can use this as match

  • Entering land use change on land registry can be an issue with both landlords and mortgage providers

  • Very capital orientated rather than revenue

  • Doesn’t cover all the money to create it, so you still have to pay and then you don’t’ get revenue

  • As a landowner you might get an asset but as a tenant there’s less value

  • Accepting of blended finance as a necessity going forward

How could ELM incorporate money from other sources?


  • Tax – if private support involves a higher rate of tax in comparison to stewardship support.

  • Legislation e.g. you need to be able to manage changes you make on going [i.e. you may not want to introduce something if you’re than stuck with it, unable to change it, forever]

  • How much risk can you take when receiving money up front for things like Biodiversity Net Gain

  • Concern about impact of longer-term commitments when farm changes over

  • Concern about subjectivity in assessment of delivery

  • Climate change impacts are a concern for long term commitments

  • Ethics around some options, like Biodiversity Net Gain, are questionable

  • Concern about private finance going primarily to Landscape Recovery – could be positive or elitist?

  • Tenure of agreement is important, particularly if tenant

  • Excessive auditing

  • Race to the bottom with other farmers, being undercut by a few could destroy whole model

  • That you may need to retain carbon if we’re required to off-set our own emissions at some point

  • Solving a carbon problem is limited window – only so many trees can be planted but more carbon is constantly being generated

  • Too many different codes and systems e.g. carbon for soil, peat, trees

What would help?

  • Put tick box on ELM form to enable trading carbon credits

  • Central register of providers with track record and acceptable to Defra. Maybe with a ‘Trust Pilot’ style rating system

  • Local, free, advisor specializing in blended finance

  • Easy to use evaluation model [to assess credit potential] which is universally used

  • Green loans – tenants can’t afford to fund works up front, it can have a significant impact on farm business cash flow

  • Particularly short-term quick stuff or big projects such as peat restoration

  • Rolling windows for funding applications

  • Private finance used as challenge fund for small scale innovation e.g. to diversify business into peat restoration

  • How do you de-risk commitments for land managers?

  • How do you make sure all money doesn’t go on agents and consultants?

  • Who owns the natural capital in landlord/tenant relationship?

  • ELM needs to have a trajectory of change which sets out steps to improvement

  • Happier if govt. paying revenue as, hopefully, they’re less likely to go out of business

  • Bonus payments welcome from anyone

  • Happier to see capital works covered by private companies and revenue covered by Defra

  • Feel more comfortable with capital and works, on reasonable time frames, as long as revenue to maintain what’s present remains consistently covered by Defra

  • Defra funding could cover value of carbon credits and then they can off-set UK emissions or trade as they wish

  • Defra as market of last resort – if you can’t sell it they’ll buy it for those who don’t want to risk facing market place as an option to check on a form

  • Payment for maintenance of features e.g. if one org funds works, one pays on going maintenance

  • Insurance scheme to protect farmers if companies go bust

  • Avoid confusion between statutory and voluntary obligations – if Defra dictate what happens they should pay because their terms and conditions could restrict what private finance might deliver

  • Private finance bidding to pay, rather than farmers competing to be paid, like ebay

  • To sell collaboratively but there needs to be a process where agreements are with individual holdings

  • National and local initiatives or national schemes with local interpretation

  • National emissions trading scheme, matched against national carbon scheme, would keep supply and demand together

  • Role of facilitation in encouraging collaboration:

What has worked for you?

  • Wouldn’t happen without facilitator you can trust and feel confident in

  • Humour

  • Trust and confidence between members

  • Food bribery

  • Individuals with similar mind set came together, rather than based on geography, with shared aims and aspirations

  • New members require unanimous approval

  • Came together originally looking specifically at butterflies, good to start focussed on one thing

  • Share knowledge

  • Selecting the right focus at each point in time – self-steered

  • Maintaining independence of each holding

  • Team feel / being able to pick and choose members / not stuck with ‘Bob’ [invented code word for challenging individual], if you have a ‘Bob’ they can have a lot of power

  • Skills, knowledge and perseverance of facilitator

  • 2 days a week of support time

  • Really good speakers

  • Recycle money and resource within cluster

  • Genuine commitment and ownership for the long term

Is there anything you would do differently?

  • Go further afield [to see what other people are doing] would be helpful and it would be helpful if that was funded

  • To host other groups coming to us and fund hosting them

  • Start with an advisor with more time, that may tail off but they’re still there

  • Facilitator support groups in the same region to join dots and share learning

  • Can ELM provide higher payments for those collaborating at scale?

Has working in this group, on this plan, changed you?

  • Complete change in mindset, from livestock production to broader range

  • Not just thinking about your holding in isolation

  • Personal development, you always come away having learnt something

  • Appreciating the diversity of our farms

  • Provides space and confidence to step back and appraise your business

  • Don’t feel alone, can take confidence from learning/changing with others

Our Test & Trial is tasked with producing Land Management Plans for home farms and commons. For home farms we leapt straight in with a focus on the scorecard. For commons we have opted not to start with the technical environmental stuff but the social structures.

We've done it this way around on the basis that you have to be able to get all your rights holders and land owners together, and in agreement about the best way forward, before you can even start to use a scorecard or any other land management plan tool.

We've done a couple of workshops each so far with Harford and Ugborough, Lydford and Widecombe and reached some initial conclusions although there's still a fair amount of detail to work out.

The areas where we seem to have a degree of consensus are:

Land Management Plans

  • Agreeing a shared vision for a landscape at the start of an agreement, with an emphasis on what's already present and opportunities to enhance it.

  • That a scorecard and map combination is the best approach.

Delivering Upper Components of ELM

  • Some combination of valuing more what's wanted and having additional measures around its delivery.


  • Facilitation should be in place before an agreement starts.

  • That an independent facilitator should oversee the agreement process.


  • Grazing rights should continue to underpin agreement payments but part of the money should be allocated to work done (the idea of two thirds of the total allocated to grazing and one third for work done seemed to resonate with people).

  • That there should be set payment rates for different management actions.

  • That Defra should set a structure for distributing money that all Commons Associations use.

  • That penalties for activities which damage the outcomes of the agreement should be applied to the individual(s) responsible.

  • That payment for administration, facilitation and advice should go to Commons Associations.

Home farm/Commons linked?

  • That home farm and common agreements should be separate agreements.

Entering into commons agreements

  • That individuals should be able to opt in or out of a commons agreement, providing those opting out are prevented from negatively impacting the agreement.

Areas not yet resolved/lacking consensus:

  • There was a split between those who think all money for commons agreements should be paid to the Commons Association and those who feel that money for either grazing or works undertaken by an individual should be paid directly to that individual by Defra.

  • The role of landowners in agreements.

  • The scale of agreements e.g. sticking with Commons Associations or using other boundaries.

  • Whilst it's clear people want home farm and commons agreements to be separate and individuals to be able to opt in or out of commons agreements I wonder if people think that if you're in an agreement on one common you should be in agreement on all commons for which you have rights? So you can opt in or out to being in an agreement on commons or not as a blanket approach or people can continue to be opt into some commons agreements and out of others, where they have rights on multiple commons.

If you're a common rights holder or land owner on Dartmoor then we'd love it if you could contribute your opinion through the survey below.