Sustainable Agriculture: show me the money #LPE13

The annual LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) President’s Event takes place today, 5 November, at the headquarters of HSBC in Canary Wharf, East London. The theme of the event is Sustainable Agriculture: Show me the money, and I am speaking on the Valuation of Ecosystem Services. Here are my slides:

The key message is summed up on Slides 10, 11 and 12. We have the potential to embark upon a new paradigm in rural land management but will we step up to the task of the ecosystem entrepreneur?


Biodiversity offsetting, peat, conservation covenants and newts on the move

Defra, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has issued a consultation paper (Green Paper) on biodiversity offsetting and development.  This paper represents a major government commitment to the introduction of biodiversity offsetting as a means to mitigate the environmental impact of development.  Government plans to have definite proposals ready by the end of this year.  Comments are invited by 7 November.

How is it likely to work?  There are already trials underway and Defra has developed a simple ‘metric’ to determine the ‘biodiversity units’ lost to development, and therefore how many units must be offset by positive environmental work elsewhere.  The Green Paper gives a simple example of how this works for a supermarket development on a site which is part derelict, part arable land and part woodland.

A number of questions flow from this: must replacement be like for like, or can one sort of habitat be substituted for another?  Hedgerows in the pilot schemes must be replaced by hedgerows for example, on a ratio of up to 3 new for one lost.

Is this a developer’s charter?  Continue reading “Biodiversity offsetting, peat, conservation covenants and newts on the move”

Pilot UK Peatland Code

Follow this link for details of an event in London on 10 June to learn about the new Peatland Carbon Code, to meet the team responsible for writing it and to provide your initial thoughts and feedback in preparation for a pilot project to start in September this year.  Or go to this link to book a place directly.

For details of the event:

And to book a place:

Look forward to seeing you there.




The Natural Environment Research Council has funded practical research work in the South West to develop a scheme for the practical restoration of peatland for water management, the reduction of atmospheric carbon and biodiversity habitat management.  This work has been led from Leeds and Birmingham City Universities, and supported with additional funding from South West Water (SWW).  A prospectus is planned to be one of the major outputs from the project, providing advice to landowners, farmers and land managers as to how a scheme could work, what factors need to be considered in deciding on site suitability, and how land managers can decide if participation is right for them.  The prospectus should also be helpful to potential investors in deciding if they wish to invest in the carbon and biodiversity aspects of the scheme.

The prospectus is now being prepared and the purpose of this synopsis is to invite feedback and comments on its overall structure, and the matters which it is proposed it will cover.  All comments are welcome.  Please send them to Charles Cowap, Project Team, at  Charles Cowap and Dr David Smith (SWW) are happy to discuss any questions arising from this work: Charles Cowap 07947 706505; Dr David Smith: 07824 460274 (  There will be further opportunities to comment on the full prospectus in due course.


  • What this document is about
  • How it is structured
  • How it aims to help you to consider if PES (Payments for Ecosystem Services) is for you including some important factors to consider in deciding to sign up for PES
  • Status of document in contractual terms
  • Desirability of seeking independent advice

The proposed PES scheme

  • What we are offering for SWW (South West Water) and other investors to ‘buy’: peatland management for water supply and quality, with an option to bundle carbon and biodiversity management/development for corporate CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) purposes
  • Potential interest for other investors in carbon and biodiversity benefits
  • Background to ESS (Ecosystem Services) and PES more generally, including links to the development of a UK Peatland Carbon Code
  • The relationship of this prospectus to the important and growing role of ESS and PES thinking in government policy and land management more generally

Basis (es) of offer

  •  The ‘offer’ to landowners and managers interested in selling their ESS
  •  The offer to companies and other potential investors in biodiversity and carbon in the south-west

Factors and issues for sellers and buyers to consider in deciding whether to join PES programme

  • Contractual aspects: length of agreement, review terms, break clauses, succession, other key terms and what they mean
  • Land tenure arrangements
  • Effects on other interested parties, eg tenants, landlords, graziers, commoners, rights of turbary, manorial rights, owners of sporting and mineral rights, implications for succession and inheritance,
  • Practical farming considerations
    • Series of sub-headings
    • Animal welfare and health considerations
    • Relationship with statutory schemes and designations (ESA, HLS, ELS, GAEC obligations etc)
    • Public liability and insurance questions/CROW Access Land
    • Other business considerations, eg relationship to diversification opportunities
    • Maintenance obligations and concerns
    • Taxation: VAT, Income Tax, Inheritance and Capital Gains Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax [Corporation Tax]
    • Ongoing obligations [may be covered by contractual aspects or cross-linked]
    • Impact on capital values
    • Security/risk judgements

Decision Tree

Two decisions trees, one for site selection; the other to help land managers to work through the options.

Site suitability, eg

  • Peatland – known mapped damage – further investigation by survey team – detailed mapping – determine if damage restorable – evaluate impact on farming activity – evaluate drainage/wetness implications for surrounding farmland


  •  Identify all interests in site: tenure, other rights, designations, schemes
  • Liaise with other interests and stakeholders
  • Identify new management requirements
  • Consider compatibility with existing management and schemes, and potential to gain funding from conservation related initiatives through providing more sustainable habitat
  • Identify any needs for adapted management or farming policy
  • Consider scope to release other resources for alternate uses
  • For non-compatibility, evaluate ‘better’ option: in or out of PES and review for alternatives
  • Assess financial benefits and costs

A suggested approach to financial aspects

Costs saved

  •   Eg some livestock purchases
Extra costs, eg

  •   Time for access to more difficult ground
  •   Vet and med bills
  •   Insurance
  •   Feed
  •   Machinery costs if contracting to be offered


Extra Revenue, eg

  •   PES Income
  •   Contracting opportunities for SWW
Lost Revenue

  •   Eg some livestock LWG or sales
Balance positive: financially worthwhile

– Consider capital and tax implications

Balance positive: not financially worthwhile

Conclusion: pulling it all together

Next steps and who to contact for further information

Please forward comments on this draft to:

Charles Cowap, MRICS FAAV

NERC Project Team

For further information or to discuss any points on this synopsis, please contact either Charles Cowap as above (or phone 07947 706505), or Dr David Smith, SWW, 07824 460274 (

[Reproduced in full from a document circulated on 5 March 2013 to stakeholder representatives]

Development of a Peatland Ecosystem Services Scheme on the South West Mires and Moors

Slides presented by Dr David Smith and Charles Cowap at an evening meeting of the Agricultural Law Association, kindly hosted by Michelmores LLP at their Exeter Office on 26 February 2013.

Dr David Smith first reviewed work in recent years on the benefits of peatland restoration work in the south west, for water management, carbon capture and habitat and biodiversity management.

David then went on to explain why South West Water is interested in securing clean supplies of water from upland areas

Finally Charles Cowap presented the work he has been doing with South West Water in a project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council with Leeds and Birmingham City Universities.

Questions and discussions continued in a lively fashion for some time after the presentations, both formally and informally over refreshments kindly provided by Michelmores.

From Market Value to Natural Value: Challenges to International Professional Practice

RICS launched this international thought leadership paper at its headquarters in Parliament Square, London on 15 November.

The paper reviews important business opportunities in the provision of nature’s services, or ecosystem services.  There are important opportunities for chartered surveyors to be involved in this.  Most obviously this will consist of working with clients to think through the opportunities and challenges to land management.

Less obviously the RICS and its membership has an important and unique contribution to offer to the development of these ideas.  Our long experience of regulated valuation work in challenging commercial environments, and our knowledge of the interaction between land tenure and asset management, are both examples of points which have scarcely yet been recognised in this emerging field.

There are also implications for valuation work.  Traditional valuation work will have to take account of new factors, and there will be requirements for entirely new types of valuation and appraisal.

The report itself is available from the RICS Website (follow this link).  I have blogged before on the top environmental business opportunities (link here)

The RICS presentation was followed by a lively debate with five panellists.  This has been summarised in the following YouTube video of the presentation and discussion which starts by looking at a project in Exmoor to improve water management, restore peat, and store carbon:

I would be very interested in feedback from readers on the ideas outlined in the paper, and to the ‘video’ as the use of video in this way is a new initiative.