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Group of people on a hillside

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Jenny Walking Sheep Up Street

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Beekeepers examining a frame of bees

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Group of people on a hillside

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  • Harriet Bell

What is the right formula for ELM Commons Agreements?

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.

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