(RBAPS) in Wensleydale and Coverdale
Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority began an RBAPS pilot in 2016, funded by the EU. In 2018 the pilot was extended for 2 more years with funding from Defra.
We are working with farmers in the Wensleydale and Coverdale area of the National Park on upland hay meadows and breeding wader grasslands. And for the first time within the EU, this approach is being tested in an arable setting with farmers in Norfolk and Suffolk led by Natural England. Working with farmers to demonstrate the value of ‘high nature value farming’ is one of the objectives agreed by the Authority and a wide range of local partner organisations in the National Park Management Plan 2019-24.
Also known as ‘payment by results’ (PBR), this approach differs from traditional agri-environment schemes because there are no management prescriptions and better results means landowners receive a higher payment. We have 19 farms involved with the project covering 51 ha of meadows and 285 ha of wet grassland for breeding waders.
Grasslands are assessed by both farmers and YDNPA advisers. Indicator species score positive and negative points along a transect line in hay meadows to give the meadow a total score. For wet grasslands the score is based on the presence and absence of features known to provide good conditions for breeding waders. Farmers receive a higher payment for achieving a higher score and providing better environmental outcomes.
Example assessment forms:
Results so far
- Environmental performance is higher using a PBR approach for both hay meadows and wet grasslands for breeding waders
- Grasslands are often slow to react to changes in management, so these results are surprising and encouraging
- Self-assessments were largely accurate and agreed with YDNPA adviser scores
- Risk of failure provided a focus to apply management skills
- Difficult to eliminate weather effects from some scoring systems, but the actual impact was potentially not as great as the perceived risk
- Training and advice was well received
- Strong sense of fairness mixed in with pride and a competitive edge
- Assessment criteria need extensive testing and ongoing validation to ensure accuracy and fairness
After two years this is what our participating farmers have told us about their experiences of the PBR approach…
Towards the end of the EU project in late 2018, both pilot areas hosted an end of project conference in their respected areas. This included a panel Q&A session with some of the participating farmers.
Presentations from the event can be found at:
A project report on the three-year EU-funded pilot was published in September 2019.
View the full report or read the executive summary at publications.naturalengland.org.uk
A conference showcasing the findings of the EU funded RBPS pilot projects from Ireland, Spain, Romania and the UK was held on the 17th October 2019. The event was organised on behalf of the European Commission by the Institute of European Environmental Policy. The UK project was represented by the YDNPA, Natural England and farmers Caroline Harrison and Nick Anema.
To find out more about the conference and each of the pilots visit:
The Defra funded project will conclude in December 2020 with the findings from both the EU and Defra funded work contributing to the design of the Environmental Land Management System – the future payment mechanism for environmental enhancement in rural areas.