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  • Harriet Bell

Advisory Team Meeting Notes

The Advisory Team met virtually on the 10th of September with the intention of developing solutions to the problems identified with commons agreements as outlined in this blog: www.dartmoorhillfarmproject.co.uk/post/what-are-the-solutions-to-making-commons-agreements-work-for-everyone


However the conversation ranged slightly wider and the note taking also got a bit patchy but, regardless, the notes follow.


- I’d always envisioned it would be two separate scorecards. The base for each one would be different e.g. for the commons there would be different baseline criteria. The things that qualify you to go out to the home farm are different. I think the scorecard process, we’ve still got to actually dig down and figure out how that’s going to work. I have a far simpler vision and I think we’re going to get it to do too much and it may get too complicated. You could actually maybe have an overarching one from home into the Common in Tier 3, you don’t want to start it off at the bottom or you’re going to make life complicated.

- Interesting when you commented there. We need, I would think, it’s very important that people can only join, if they have common rights on that common. The one thing we don’t know and the key is liability, it very much depends on who we are answerable to. So in an ideal world I would say who pays the money is who we’re accountable to. There does need to be a local association involved somewhere, maybe with or without the monetary side I don’t know but there needs to a be a recognition of the detail and complexity required and there needs to be a “Go to” who does know everything.

- I’d imagine you have a different scorecard for every category of land.

- I was really I’m only agreeing with other people, I saw it as two separate ones because if the agreement is over multiple commons or even a large common with management areas because each individual involved wouldn’t necessarily be scored …the area of the commons agreement as a whole, with individuals scored on the bits they deliver.

- I just wanted to agree with what X said that having one scorecard would be hugely complex. I wouldn’t imagine we need one for each habitat, we can sweep them together.

- Just coming back to X’s point, that raises a really interesting question. X raised the idea that not everyone would be scored the same for every individual. If we have an individual scorecard for each individual grazier or commoner that’s hellish complicated.

- What I was trying to say is that no, you wouldn’t be scoring each individual, because you’d want to score the common as a whole and then somehow, how that common scored would in some way have to translate to payments. If people are being paid for actions they would be paid for the bits where they’re acting, I don’t know, this is why I said I was vague.

- There are a whole lot of things that those of us who are commoners contribute as a baseline. We contribute the stock and other baseline things and they’re all things that we contribute to the good of the common. Then the more cooperative and collaborative stuff gets further up the common. So there is a role for getting people out there and doing stuff on the common. Which might be some of the vegetation stuff, the monitoring stuff. So then there is a role to have an individual scorecard which says you’re having some affect and you deserve a bit more. I think the issues in the list need dealing with but they need dealing with when we have a bit more framework and we understand what we’re doing and where we’re going, we can deal with each of these as we work through the process. You’re going to make the design phase more complicated if you use it to address the bits that aren’t working. Let’s get a clear idea of where we’re going.

- We so desperately need a coming together of all the different projects on Dartmoor because we can pluck all the different bits which touch on collaboration.

- Having heard some of the discussion there is a huge amount of frustration on where we are and what’s going on. That was fuelled fairly significantly by the report that you sent around [the Defra quarterly update]. The outcomes are all fairly similar, it frightened me, it scared me. We’re here to do a Dartmoor test and trial, we believe we’re innovative, we’re different, we’re progressive and at this moment in time we’re just doing the same as everyone else. That’s a considerable frustration. I’m concerned they’re looking for reasons why this shouldn’t work rather than why it should. As hill farmers we should be putting ourselves on the map to maximize the natural capital we already have. I’m also concerned there’s an agenda to make sure that everyone gets a piece of the cake, particularly the lowlands. We, in my view, as Dartmoor have done some considerable work but we need to move a lot faster. We’ve talked about the scorecard and mapping and they need to be progressed as fast as we can. In addition to that last time were discussing a governance board. Those are the things we’re delivering, formalizing and by the end of next week we need to go to Defra and say this is something we’re ready to deliver so we can go to Defra and be front of the queue because otherwise we’re just going to fall down the queue. If we base what we’re putting together on a concept the test and trial will sort out the vast majority of issues we’re talking about tonight. If we can quantify it in a fairly basic manner what you have to do legally, what you have to do as a baseline and what you need to do in an ideal world. If we can do that then we’re not wasting time. Dartmoor and hill farms across the country need for us to be getting on and delivering it quickly to present that we are in a strong place. I am frustrated and I hopefully haven’t wasted everybody’s time. Hopefully it’s a point we can discuss and also a challenge to see if we can deliver these items in a format by the end of next week.

- I was just going to go back to what X was saying. I think there is a peatscapes project but I think that’s just a personal thing and not something we can make any use of at present. It’s just unfortunate that there’s a lot else going on and we don’t have the communication process where we can’t get together and meet. So we have got an issue about feeding information out but then a little bit of information can be dangerous. X said more eloquently what I said out in the beginning, I almost didn’t come this evening because I wasn’t engaging. If we can turn up in the markets and get quizzed on what’s going on we need to be able to give something concrete about what we’re actually doing. The ambition for next week is a little bit ambitious but I think there are a lot of issues we’re trying to discuss on a zoom call. I think the job is to sit down and go over the rights and rights holders, using the experience from 2000 where we had all these discussions and tried to answer these questions where we did our best and failed miserably but it will be easier to do when we have our scorecard in hand. In an ideal world it would be nice to is down around the table and have a good chat about where the scorecard is going. Take the bit of work we did and expand on it. So we can put it in front of people.

- Just to say yes it was very moving there listening to X speak I think we can deliver whatever we want to, we just have to have the will. Communication is going to be the key. I don’t want us to be an “also ran” in this test and trial I think we have the opportunity of a life time and a duty for young farmers and land managers to produce something really good. I get quite despondent, and I do understand the practicalities of the commons scale and the number of graziers, but I think we need to keep positive.

- We are going to get frustrated but it is a very complex issue so it is going to take time. The very important thing is we don’t have to get it spot on we can alter and tweak as we get on. The point about scorecards, a smaller splinter group looking at home farms and commons and then some of us can sell it, because X and Z made a really good start.

- Coming back to my point about positivity and answering some of the problems and finding the solutions. One of the big problems is who does the money go to. I say make two management boards. One is finance and could be Dartmoor wide. A bit like how the New Forest operates. They deal with finance to associations and individuals made up of people with knowledge and people on the ground. Then you have another board dealing with the vegetation side. The next sticking point is grazing numbers. That is always just hideous but I think we need to come back a bit from numbers and define and value under and over grazing. The bigger picture is about commons saying it’s over grazed, it’s undergrazed and no one’s listening. You take your issues to the vegetation management board. Let’s deal with new graziers. We had a process which got rid of small graziers, we all witter about the youngsters so let’s do something about it.

- I was going to go back and saying that after Tavistock market the other day various people contacted me and so maybe we should go to markets and tell people where we are and where we’re at. I was wandering if I should just crack on because I think the Spitchwick commoners…. I want it to be very open so that people don’t feel they’re excluded, somehow we’ve got to break that barrier because so many people want to be involved. It’s a real problem because of the history of they’ve got so much and we …

- You’ve got all sorts of different commons and they’re all different. You were talking about the reverse auction type stuff, what it takes to deliver outcomes, could we convert it into a percentage so that everyone…..

- Although money was an issue we’re far better to understand the other stuff and work out the values for it. If we start trying to decide what money we’re going to divvy up. The one thing about James [Moran], he understand very well what the WTO rules are so there’s no good us deciding if it doesn’t work.

- Presumably we get to a point where we’re increasing the value of the commons in a natural capital sense so how to you factor in the natural capital variation between the commons?

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