Written evidence submitted by Juliet Bailey (ELM0020)


I am concerned that we will continue to lose priority habitats during the transition period, and that even when ELM starts the evidence on which payments will be made will not be available in the Priority Habitats Inventory.


I am a long-retired adviser of the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group. I know that the rigid prescriptions of the old schemes have not delivered for the environment, and indeed some of the farmers have received payments for delivering schemes that provided no environmental gain at all, basically money for old rope. Shameful!


In recent years I have been a volunteer surveyor, particularly of floodplain grasslands in the Severn vale and traditional orchards in Gloucestershire. I became aware of the Priority Habitats Inventory only last summer, but was instrumental in getting several meadows added to it. I discovered about 1000 hectares more of good or potentially restorable floodplain meadows that have not yet been entered on the PHI.


How can these places be secured from continuing loss by attrition?  Farmers need support to manage the land appropriately, and not just for capital works or profit foregone.  If this is to be based on credible evidence of the land’s ecological value, I fear there are not enough experts available to do the survey, let alone enter the land on the PHI.


The problem is compounded by the fact that many of the most biodiverse farms are small farms, sometimes owned by retired farmers who let others manage the land for them. They may not even realise that what they have is special, as a wildlife habitat or for the ecosystem services it provides.


Sights that were common - even simple things like a field of Buttercups - are becoming rare, and we are all the poorer for it.


I ask that you do all in your power to ensure the continuation of these special places and the environmental goods they provide by: