Environmental Land Management Scheme

Paul Harris/2020 Vision

Exploring the new ELM Scheme

As part of GWT’s work trialling options with DEFRA for the new Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) we can provide a business analysis of current incomes together with possible opportunities from future stewardship agreements, including ELMS. We can carry out an analysis of the estate to define the potential opportunities for income from the delivery of public goods.

Additionally, we will look to support links with investors for large-scale land-use change such as woodland or wetland creation. We can explore opportunities with local planning authorities for an estate to be part of biodiversity net gain or climate change programmes.  Where it is possible, we will support long-term planning by seeking incomes guaranteed for decades. The opportunities we will target are long-term habitat creation programmes that will be supported by central government grants, or through other public sector or private sources.

We are offering a bespoke service to help you get the most out of the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme. We can provide support in preparing the essential element of ELMS, the Land Management Plan (LMP). This is a working document to indicate to DEFRA how public goods delivery will be actioned.

Paying Farmers for the public goods they deliver

For more than forty years, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has dictated how we farm, and over this time we have seen devastating declines in wildlife across the UK.  For five years landowners have benefitted from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), a cash payment based on the area of land they own.  Alongside this landowners have been able to apply for Countryside Stewardship which pays landowners to undertake on-farm work that provide environmental benefits.  Whilst a lot of good work has been delivered through Countryside Stewardship (and its predecessors) it has also been criticised for not providing the benefits hoped for.  It is considered to be too heavily regulated and bureaucratic, deterring people from entering into schemes. 

With our departure from the EU there is an opportunity to redesign agricultural policies to allow us to meet our environmental ambitions, while supporting our farming sector. The new Agriculture Bill signals a huge opportunity for better policies to support farmers to produce food for our country whist creating healthier soils, vibrant wetlands and the other things that nature gives us for free. The move away from CAP, will bring us to the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme which is based on the principle of ‘public money for public goods’. This aims to put English farmers in the best position possible to meet the objectives of protecting the environment and producing food.

The ELM scheme is due to come into effect in 2024, which is the same year there will be no new Countryside Stewardship Agreements. The Basic Payment Scheme will drop annually over 7 years, the first cuts will be in 2021 and the last year of payments will be 2027. During this time Defra plans to make Countryside Stewardship simpler and more flexible.  Defra are also looking at other potential grants that might be available during the transition period. 

The ELM scheme will provide farmers, foresters and other land managers with an opportunity to secure financial reward in return for delivering environmental benefits. ELM will be a powerful vehicle for achieving the goals of the 25 Year Environment Plan, and ensure there is a strong mechanism for addressing and averting the environmental crisis. The ELM scheme will focus on payments for these public goods:

1. Thriving plants and wildlife

2. Clean and plentiful water

3. Clean air

4. Reduced risk of harm from environmental hazards such as flooding and drought

5. Mitigating and adapting to climate change

6. Enhanced beauty, heritage and engagement

Whilst the ELM scheme is still in development, Defra have released information about current thinking of the scheme design, and a key part of this is the three tiered system:

- Tier one would encourage farmers to adopt environmentally sustainable farming and forestry practices,

- Tier two would encourage farmers, foresters and other land managers to focus on delivering locally-targeted environmental outcomes.

- Tier three would pay for larger-scale, transformational projects – such as restoring peatland.

Under the ELM scheme, farmers will be paid for work that enhances the environment, such as tree or hedge planting, river management to mitigate flooding, or creating or restoring habitats for wildlife. Farmers will therefore have an opportunity to be at the forefront of reversing environmental declines and tackling climate change as they reshape the future of farming in the 21st century.

This trial is innovative in approach, combining the farmer or land owner’s ambitions with the role the farm plays as part of the wider landscape informed by the landscape-scale priorities set out for wildlife in local Nature Recovery Networks. By the end of the project we will have developed and prepared a series of farm plans and  local farmers will have had the opportunity to mould the future of the ELM scheme and how it could be delivered. 

If you wish to learn more about the ELM scheme, please contact Tim Bevan, our Senior Wildlife and Farming Manager at tim.bevan@gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk