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  • Harriet Bell

Who or how do we set spatial priorities?

Having chosen to use a scorecard and payments by results approach and having suggested what should be included in the scorecard we're now beginning to develop the model, working with the Organic Research Centre and James Moran from he Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, who has been heavily involved in the Irish payment by results work.


As this is only a Test and Trial it's easy for us to engage all he right people and get there input into the process, reaching out across Dartmoor and wider looking for expertise identifying the right indicators to include.


The question the Advisory Team met virtually to discuss on the 24th of September is what happens if this wasn't just a test and trial, when ELM comes into existence who or what is the right process to determine what farmers should be asked to do where? Currently decisions at an EU level cascade down through government ministers, Defra and Natural England into the stewardship agreements farmers see before them. Is ELM an opportunity for priorities to be set at a more local level? Could the National Park Management Plan process be a means to do this?


Ahead of this discussion the results of our baseline survey (which we'd still encourage you to take if you haven't already) were circulated to the team:


Responses to the question "Which organisation do you feel is best placed to set the landscape objectives for Dartmoor that farmer's will be asked to deliver under ELM?"

Notes from the discussion:


  • I think, you talked about how we move forward on this. As you say, at the moment, local priorities start at EU level and filter down to our NE team and currently the problem is with the interpretation. It’s not the list of options, it’s not that they’re not suitable, it’s that they’re interpreted differently in our neck of the woods. Talking about the data set, I don’t think that it matters what we use, what matters most is a balanced approach as to what and how it is delivered. I think we have a management board. You talk about the National Park Management Plan process the problem is the world and his wife can feed into that, it’s too heavy on the side of who can feed in, not who can actually deliver the outcome. The only thing I can think of is the facilitation fund approach, maybe it’s the National Park maybe there is a management board, for the SDA land management board and it’s about having a balance of representation and power.


  • In my mind in terms of how this works, in terms of its governance, we need a committee. I don’t think anyone wants the National Park to run this. We need a committee like the commoners council. In terms of the agreement, I think there’s a scorecard across a range of categories and the 6 public goods against each one. The governance board would then oversea it and ensure there’s fair play. So you have an overseeing governance body of some farmers, National Park, archaeologists etc., so you need experts but we do need to, it will need to be fairly, it needs to ensure that when farmers are filling out these cards it has to be justifiable. What you’re going to do, what’s in front of you and why you’re giving it the score you are. You need to be on an upward trajectory. I think that’s enough, you don’t need to go into too much detail.


  • I think the process of the National Park Management Plan is a good process to be included but I don’t think it’s the be all and end all because you can get bias based on who responded and you can get an awful lot of people with nothing to do with what’s happening expressing their opinion. So I think you have a management board and they take on board all sorts of information including the National Park Management Plan.


  • If we think of past schemes, all sorts of things have fallen from past schemes, like education, and we are likely not to have money to be able to do everything so how do we prioritize?


  • We could weight, on a certain common you might be really strong on archeology and access. For each parcel you could select three of the public goods and pick the ones most relevant to that parcel. That could be how you focus on spatial priorities. It should be done at a common level. You’d have experts in those fields, take from the Dartmoor management plan. It will be the management boards job to add balance.


  • Obviously I don’t know how Defra are going to want to run this but I would have said if you have a Dartmoor scale setting of priorities what would feed into that is people who come from national bodies. So feeding into the decision making would be say the Envrionment Agency feeding in - then the connection went.


  • The tax payer currently does feed in, all the NGOs have a seat at the table when anything is discussed. As to the level perhaps it could be county council/district council but they are the ones to also have a seat at the table to be a boundary map/boundary marker. Why don’t we look at these schemes so that they integrate. Why couldn’t we have spatial priorities in layers e.g. catchment scale for rivers, habitat on the commons, something else which is low input grassland across the South Hams. Is there something to say that we’re fixed by our farm boundary and therefore we’re one agreement not linked to anybody else. We could be part of a plan to deliver to a bigger target. So lets take diverse pasture, we could all do that and we’d all be delivering the same objective as part of an agreement but in our little patch. Maybe we look at it differently that we tick the box to deliver something but that what we’re delivering may not be neighbourly, may be Devon based.


  • We’ve almost run away with this this a little bit but each farm will have its own agreement and there has to be choice. So my home farm, that’s one agreement, Dartmoor commons I see working as one big management agreement, almost treat it like one big farm on its own and then the management group allocate the money. I suppose it’s just the fact that the National Park is such a big player for us that we feel like if they pick this up and run with it, it may be fine but they do have their own agendas and we need to be careful that as land owners and managers we do have some input. There’s a lot of farmers out there who would not be happy because everyone has their own priorities and there has to be balance and all bodies involved.


  • Is the problem that the Management Plan isn’t representative, I think yes from what I’ve heard. Are we talking about a Dartmoor wide agreement or are we talking about the Commons? I have a bit of an issue with experts that we can get quite reductionist in our thinking when we concentrate on one thing. I like generalists not just experts because you get more practical information about work on the ground. I’d like to know a bit more about who currently make decisions. So this group has been created. I didn’t have a great experience at all with the National Park so I have my own axe to grind there. I think the National Park should be pulling their weight and we should use their resources and their strengths, presumably those are data holding and capturing and the financial side, if we are to support this process and deliver stuff on such a big scale.


  • So the National Park Management Plan is a partnership plan which the National Park Authority is tasked to produce. So I take the point that’s been made that it does absorb everybody and sometimes it’s not the right people but those that shout the loudest. In terms of the DNPA wanting to deliver ELMs, I don’t know who is suggesting that but this is something different. The management plan we consult very widely. The other thing I was going to say that is in terms of delivery my sense is landscape scale is probably the way it’s going to go. They have been talking about multiple holding agreements, whether they go down that route I don’t know but it will be how we see farms as contributions in the wider landscape. It could be by catchment.


  • Going a little bit back to what X was saying about if there’s something that’s going to affect the whole of Dartmoor or the whole of Devon then that should be a bonus with a fresh pot of money over the top, a Tier 3 sort of thing. Once upon a time I though the design of this scheme was in our hands but it seems to me that we’re handing it to a whole load of experts and so much depends on the quality. I don’t think the river example was a good one because we can have multiple rivers on our land and I’ve yet to come across anyone who understands how it works. The Management Plan isn’t designed for the purpose of what we’re doing. There’s quite a fixation about getting into these schemes but we have to design as much for those people who don’t want to be tied in. When you start doing it on the big areas you’ll have holes in it. We have to maintain that simplicity, otherwise, we’ll get bogged down in data. We have got the expertise and we have the ability to set up something.


  • What I’d like to do is go back to the original question of who is managing the scheme over what area. It should be a complete Dartmoor plan, it is a Dartmoor Test & Trial. My question is that if you want a body/group to oversee this process you’ll need a manager, technical support, policies and procedures coming out of your ears. The board will have costs and expense in running and administering the process and you have to go through due diligence. So all this is racking up more and more costs. So this money is then coming out of what’s due to the farmers. If there are organisations with heritage or recreation pots can the administration costs be drawn from them rather than out of the subsidy costs? What is that cost and what is the statutory responsibility. To be specific I wish there to be a Dartmoor structure with a Dartmoor management group but to manage it you need to understand what are responsibilities and administration required are because without that information we can’t decide who the appropriate body should be but Dartmoor with a Dartmoor management group is the way forward.


  • Going back to the Management Plan my problem as I’ve seen it is that it’s written in broad legalise so it’s difficult to work out what it actually means on the ground and it’s not designed for the purpose of setting ELMs priorities. I think we need to be setting priorities on a Dartmoor level but I have concerns with setting geographical areas bounded by lines on a map because on my farm I’m half in a national park and half out. So I think priorities should be potentially national, it’s as you get into specific actions that they need to be set more locally. The discussion seemed to be heading down the path of saying these are the priorities and this is what you’ll get paid for. There’s going to be different tiers of priority setting the same way there’s going to be different tiers of delivery.


  • I think this issue about linking the management plan and ELMs priorities. The Management Plan is quite high level but coming out of it is more detailed work which in general should align with ELMs priorities. The problem you have with all of these things is the amount of detail that you look at. I think it’s that there’s got to be flexibility at the site operational level but we’re thinking of grouping things up for landscape coverage. So there’s different scales within it but overall that coming back to the Dartmoor level is right and I think the previous point that the administrative costs are going to be huge but here’s going to be a lot of money coming into it so I don’ think we should worry about costs. What’s important is neutrality in the entity managing the scheme because there’s always the risk of the whole scheme being side tracked by some existing entity which has its own purpose. I think there’s always a danger of individuals interpreting information differently but if it’s at a local level it should be a lot closer to what’s required. As long as here’s a framework at a plan level it should stay about as local and as focused as it can be.


  • I think we should chose the LFA line as our outline because that incorporates what is important, the land that is challenging, it’s an accepted boundary feature. We’ve all got hopefully a bit of land outside of that comes in somewhere else. I hope that whatever scheme we go into we start half way up the ladder because it’s recognised that LFA is challenging.


  • They tried to redraw the line and they called it the areas of natural constraint. You’ve got to be careful because the moorland line and the LFA line isn’t the same.


  • No they’re not, I was looking at the National Park Land and LFA line.


  • There would be commons outside of the line and outside of the national park. You have to deal with those issues all the way around. Bear in mind that you’d have to apply that nationally.


  • Considering the point about money that is a worry. In terms of how Defra would look at this we’d be an upland area so they’d throw us in a pot with the Lakes and Yorkshire and give us the same categories. On a more local level the Dartmoor Management Trustees or whomever, I see them managing the agreements for those commons. The home farms would stand alone and maybe if you farm within the national park you get an uptick on the points of your scorecard but I don’t really see that as being managed by the same group who manage the commons, I see that as being like a Forest trustees group on steroids. Defra will just see us as Dartmoor and an upland area, we’ll be all very similar.


  • I think you’re right, Defra will see us as one of the protected landscapes. That’s how they’ll see it and something we’re looking at currently is that they do see us as separate entities rather than wrapped up in a county plan.


  • We almost need help at times because we know what we’ve got but we need expertise, and we could use the National Park there, that would help but I think we need to trust our instincts and what we’ve got.


  • One of the things I remember trying to spatial target Devon in the past and that was a hell of a feast. We spent most of the time with the bat people arguing with the bird people about which should come first then the butterfly people. It was a process that was really painful. It’s a process we should grasp ourselves. For us to have ownership it really needs to be something we’re interested in because otherwise we’re not going to do a real good job and that’s the most important thing.


  • I agree we need to work out the priorities at a Dartmoor wide level. That gives us input into what’s being delivered, one of the problems I see at the moment is being encouraged to try and do things which are frankly undeliverable. We also need to coordinate that with what’s being delivered more widely outside. I do see difficulties with the National Park Management Plan, it’s not designed for those purposes and it does have a lot of other input. We have to remember that there’s a lot of cost in delivering these schemes already so perhaps the trick is to get some of that money and give it to a body which is a lot more approachable than what we’ve got at the moment.


  • I don’t know. I think it’s been very interesting this evening. I think that probably how the management works could be split at the level of the tiers – so tier one could be very local, tier 3 maybe county council for a bigger area of doing things. What I said earlier about the National Park still stands [that farmers don’t want DNPA to have a role in the delivery of ELMs], although it’s clarified a bit that the national park doesn’t want to do it.


  • Some subtle reminders. I am very much pro about keeping things simple. Keep it Dartmoor. I am grateful for the national parks support this far. We wouldn’t have a test and trial if they hadn’t got the ball rolling so I think we need to keep that in mind. We don’t want them running the show but we need to keep in mind the need to work together. Mostly I just want to remind everyone to stay positive.

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