Defra announced earlier this year that they were developing a new land management scheme which is at this time being referred to as the New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS). This scheme is to be introduced to offer financial reward to farmers and land owners who provide environmental benefits through their land management practices. Examples of environmental benefits might be providing land for particular wildlife, improving water quality or creating woodland.

The scheme won’t be fully implemented until 2016.

The priorities of the scheme will have the following hierarchy:

  1. Biodiversity (making up approximately 50% of the scheme)
  2. Synergies (approximately 25%)
  3. Water quality and flood risk management (estimated 20%)
  4. A variety of other concerns such as soil management, historic environment, landscape, genetic conservation and educational access (which will make up the remaining 5% or so of the focus of the scheme)

The scheme will be structured in such a way that farmers will have a greater degree of involvement in delivering “environmental priorities specifically related to the local area, focussing particularly on increasing biodiversity, helping wildlife and improving water quality”.

Rewards for environmental protection

It will reward farmers for protecting the environment rather than putting stress on farmers to clear all their land. We’ve seen this year in particular the impact that land clearing can have. With no root network to funnel water underground during heavy rainfall we’ve seen instances of flooding increase.

This new scheme will be an amalgamate of two other schemes, the Environmental Stewardship and England Woodland Woodland Grant scheme assisting foresters and farmers with funding to plant woodland.

Flexible application

Under the new scheme each farm will have the freedom to adopt management prescriptions that suit their land. Local policy will support local issues e.g. reimbursement for leaving land free for rare birds to live on.

The changes look to be for the good of the environment and move away from systems that currently discourage choosing the more environmentally friendly approach.