NEIRF Project

Cornwall National Landscape were awarded funding from the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund, Environment Agency, to research private investment in Section 08 South Coast Western.

Cornwall National Landscape was designated in 1959 and is unique in that it is made up of 12 separate geographical areas but is still one single designation. It covers approximately 1/3 of Cornwall – an area of 958 sq. km (370 sq. miles) and is the ninth largest protected landscape in the country.


The project formed a feasibility study to structure the protected landscape for developing an investment offer and financing. We facilitated the project on behalf of Cornwall AONB Trust.


To ensure nature recovery across the boundaries of protected landscapes and to share with stakeholders our findings about blended finance for current and future agri-environment schemes.

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Project Overview

Project Overview

This project was initiated as farmers and landowners were facing a reduction, and eventual loss, of basic payment (BPS) against a backdrop of uncertainty as information on new environment land management schemes was unknown. This posed a potential threat to farm businesses as they currently operated, and in turn posed a potential threat to natural capital resources on-farm.
In our Discovery process we identified a potential £15m natural capital and ecosystem service benefits could be available on the Lizard – Section 08, South Coast Western. In this study we calculated that for every £1 of public money spent there would be a £3 return on investment.

In the event that government schemes would not be able to provide the amount needed to realise this return we looked to understand if private investment and blended finance could form the solution to sustainable and successful farm businesses, whilst delivering more for nature, building resilience to/ mitigating climate change and enhancing landscape character and heritage.

Structuring the protected landscape for private investment required a feasibility study to understand how this might be achievable.

The project ran for 12 months, with a core group of farmers and land managers based on the Lizard and a group of consultant, experts in their field, who ran various elements of the projects and collaborated extensively on their findings.

Aims & Objectives

Aims & Objectives

The aim of this project was to further the protected landscape to develop opportunities for private investment ensuring the conservation and enhancement of the protected landscape. Our objective is secure existing and increase natural capital during a period of ecological and climate crisis.

Output : Modelling Price Discovery for Ecosystem Services

We wanted to identify private investment opportunities for collaborative nature and landscape recovery in our geographical location. This included corporate social responsibility (CSR) products, carbon credit schemes, biodiversity offsetting and reviewing other opportunities.

Output : Deal Structures for Potential Investors

Deal Structures for Potential Investors Following market testing we looked to identify expressions of interest from our buyers and suppliers and present back to our supply side the potential deal structures that would need to be in place, assessing the risks and barriers.

Output : Private Investment Strategy

This strategy is based upon the findings of the feasibility study and is ground-truthed in Section 08, South Coast Western. However, this is a model and set of actions that we can roll out for the remaining 11 Sections of Cornwall National Landscape.


We have built a network of trusted and valued relationships with farmers and landowners. We ran workshops, feedback and consultations throughout to understand the opportunities, risks and how this would impact their farm businesses. This increased the knowledge of the group and confidence to develop (or not) private investment options.


A better understanding of how the Cornwall National Landscape Partnership and Cornwall AONB Trust CIO were perceived and the benefits of this. We ran workshops to understand and analyse the risks and benefits for the Cornwall AONB Trust as a facilitator/ intermediary.


Cornwall National Landscape and the farmer group have a road-map to develop private investment opportunities further. As part of this strategy, and throughout the learning, monitoring was identified as necessary to develop the aims further.

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Our Primary Purpose is to conserve and enhance Natural Beauty.

Our priority is to lead and support projects which deliver under these four key categories.

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benefit to people


Communities in the Cornwall National Landscape live entirely outside the main towns, within villages, hamlets and scattered farmsteads, dispersed throughout the landscape. It’s a mixed picture with areas of extreme wealth and also extreme deprivation.

benefit to place


The beauty and character of the protected landscape is primarily owed to the stewardship of generations of farmers and landowners. It is essential to appreciate, understand and value its unique and diverse character and reinvest in this precious resource in order to continue to conserve and enhance it for future generations.

benefit to nature


Set against a backdrop of unprecedented concern for the future of the natural world and ecological crisis the current global response to the effects of human impact on nature is insufficient. The ‘richest’ sites for wildlife are too few, too small, too degraded and too disconnected. Nature Recovery must take place to restore and reverse this ecological decline.

benefit to climate


The climate emergency is the defining challenge of our time. In January 2019, Cornwall Council declared a climate emergency, recognising the need for urgent action to address the climate crisis. Climate change also poses threats to Cornwall National Landscape’s cultural heritage and heritage assets, including historic landscape and seascape.

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Project Detail

The project ran for 12 months, with a core group of farmers and land managers based on the Lizard and a group of consultants, experts in their field, who ran various elements of the projects and collaborated extensively on their findings.


regTaminion Farm The Lizard
Tregaminion Farm ,the Lizard
dave with his dog and cattle in the background

Cornwall National Landscape represents the 9th largest protected landscape in the country. Cornwall AONB Trust, as a charitable incorporated organisation, could act as a facilitator within the protected landscape to assist the development of ecosystem services projects. The Lizard Farmer Group is a group of forward-thinking farmers that previously co-designed a Landscape Management Framework for the Lizard with the Cornwall National Landscape team. Terranomics, Gain Consulting and the University of Exeter are also supporting this group to develop farm plans, private investment opportunities and strategies.

Through working with the Lizard farmer group, we shortlisted the following enhancement types, known as Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) opportunities:

  • Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) – through the sale of offsite biodiversity units using the DEFRA Biodiversity Metric 3.0
  • Woodland Carbon – through the sale of carbon credits using the Woodland Carbon Code (WCC)
  • Soil Carbon – through the sale of carbon credits using a private scheme (e.g., the Soil Capital Carbon Scheme)
  • Water Catchments – through outcome-based payments for water quality and reduced flooding impact.

The overall intervention area for the PES opportunities in Section 08 is approximately 213 hectares. The largest opportunities lie with Biodiversity Net Gain (54 hectares) and Woodland Carbon (52 hectares). This could generate an uplift of 283 Biodiversity Units, or 14,000 tCO2e sequestered over 30 years. Using conservative estimates these opportunities could provide a helpful revenue stream for farmers, an interesting margin for potential investors and a cost-effective means of delivering environmental improvements.
For a potential funder or investor, the funding options could include:

  • Directly purchasing credits or units (per individual ecosystem service, or for ecosystem services bundled together)
  • Funding project development in return for a share of future project revenues
  • Funding to agricultural suppliers to increase the resilience of corporate supply chains

This could be done directly between buyers and sellers, or via an intermediary or facilitating organisation (such as the Cornwall AONB Trust). This is a local opportunity to engage with Cornish farmers and landowners exploring new mechanisms that could generate significant benefits for nature and local communities.

  1. Opportunities for high-impact nature recovery and landscape recovery. Buyers and potential investors could have confidence that investments in this project will deliver high quality, and measurable impact for nature.
  2. A distinct landscape in terms of wildlife, tourism, heritage, and engagement. A fifth of the Lizard is of special scientific interest and almost a third is national priority habitat, with many unique species. There are opportunities for buyers to be involved in a visible example of a UK nature-based project with multiple benefits.
  3. An innovative forward-thinking group of farmers. Nine farmers who have set priority land management objectives, that if achieved, could generate £120 million to £535 million in terms of public goods in the Lizard peninsula.
Information for Farmers & Landowners

Information for Farmers and Land managers

Feasibility of private investment for Suppliers (Farmers)

This project worked with a group of farmers whose land holdings are in Section 08 South Coast Western. The group represented the supply side of private investment – farmers who could provide Ecosystem Service projects on their farms in the protected landscape.

They were mainly mixed and livestock farmers and therefore the investment opportunities we focused on for reflect this.
We worked with the farmer group over the 12-month project via workshops, interviews, farm walks, guest-speakers and various industry-expert talks to educate ourselves on private investment and opportunities on farm. We gained invaluable, continual feedback from the farmers about the barriers and risks to engaging in these schemes. Learning from all sides will contribute to Cornwall National Landscape’s future projects.

Colette Beckham, Gain Consulting and Dr Grace Twiston-Davies, University of Exeter worked with the supply-side to produce Farm Action Plans for each farm which identified opportunities for ecosystem service projects.

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Environments and ecosystems services targeted

enclosed farmland

Enclosed farmland

Mountain, moor and heathland

Mountain, moor and heathland

Freshwater and wetlands

Freshwater and wetlands



Coastal Margins

Coastal margins

Semi-natural grasslands

Semi-natural grasslands

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Shortlisted PES Transactions

To better understand how the Cornwall National Landscape could best structure itself to facilitate private investment in the protected landscape we worked with farmers to understand the different types of private investment and deal structures, as well as the main barriers and incentives to engaging in private finance in the short term (1-3 years).

Woodland Carbon Code

Woodland Carbon Code

Biodiversity Net Gain

Biodiversity Net Gain

Soil Carbon

Soil Carbon

Key Findings

Key Findings

The farmer group

The farmer group were most interested in grant funding, direct business investment and Wilder Carbon as mechanisms for Payments for Ecosystem services. These provide capital, are flexible in what actions can be done and help to enhance biodiversity.

Overall barriers

Overall barriers to entering into private finance deals in the short term were public sector uncertainty and concerns over ethics and that there is little opportunity to support biodiversity actions. Although Biodiversity Net Gain and Wilder Carbon were discussed, the group felt that there were not enough opportunities to support farmers who want to go the extra mile for biodiversity.

Overall incentives

Overall incentives to entering into private finance deals were clarity over when blended finance should start, clarity over ELMs and support with finding biodiversity and carbon opportunities on their farm. It was clear that until the government provide clarity over future Agri-environment schemes and over how they expect blended finance to work, engagement in private finance from the supply side will be difficult.

Finance structures

The farmer group were most interested in the Bundling and Group and Aggregated private finance structures. This was because these structures provide opportunities to enhance biodiversity and provide the support needed to help farmers to work together to provide products at scale.


Engagement in the NEIRF project overall increased farmer awareness, knowledge and understanding of the different private finance options a lot. Overall, their confidence in being able to access private finance in the medium term (4-10 years) had increased slightly.

Key actions

Key actions that Cornwall National Landscape could take to position themselves as a facilitator or programme manager to support private investment into farms were to form a collaboration with the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and /or other trusted organisations such as dairies or marketing boards in the farming sector.

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Private finance that works in harmony with sustainable food production and that is considered ethical by the farmers is key.

Deal Structures

The project shortlisted PES Transactions which included the sale of carbon credits (woodland carbon and soil carbon) and biodiversity units. The types of potential finance supplementary to this includes:

Direct business investment, grants and Wilder Carbon. These provide capital to the farm business and offer more flexibility for the farmers to create actions for biodiversity and carbon sequestration that fit with their farming practices. Wilder Carbon was popular because it included actions to enhance biodiversity and wasn’t just focused on tree planting. Soil carbon, Agroforestry Carbon Codes (in development) along with Biodiversity compensation (such as Biodiversity Net Gain) were all somewhat popular.


Payments to incentivise a performance or goal which are not paid back


Credit for a specific purpose, paid back with interest over a timeframe


Cash injection provided in return for a share of the company and profits

Supply Chain Finance

Low levels of credit and business inputs from actors in the value chain


A promise to cover losses that a lender might experience

Blended finance

Use of public funds to mobilise private finance

Short-term, it is expected that further development work is required. It is anticipated that grant funding will be needed to move the protected landscape to a position where it can begin to initiate the model. Public funds will be required to provide staff capacity and external support in the development and initial phases. Roles include Project Management, Finance, Administration, Farm coordination, and advice. Due to the understandable reluctance of the farmer group to engage in private finance in the short term, it was recommended that Cornwall National Landscape start to pilot small projects that can help build trust and legitimacy in the farming sector to engage future suppliers. These projects could provide case studies and the key to engaging in the supply – farm walks and practical exemplars.

Farmers want to see how it all works on the ground so more farm walks about carbon, trees or biodiversity net gain would be a good idea

In this structuring stage, we have begun the initial development of a really innovative and attractive offer that would allow us to achieve, through a blended finance approach, a significant return on ecosystem service benefits, fulfilling our primary purpose to conserve and enhance the protected landscape. Cornwall National Landscape is not an asset holder; therefore, what we can offer to both buy and supply side is a unique proposition to build a bespoke offer that makes the best use of the Landscape Recovery Framework and Natural Capital Prospectus. Success relies on the capacity to draw people into a collaboration due to issues around the scale. Addressing the scale issue is dependent on several players, making this more time-consuming, although the investment offer is likely to be resilient where there is a high number of supply-side deliverers. If we want to do this at scale, a mechanism is required which enables farmer collaboration.

Required levels of investment – Scale

There are 19,227 hectares within Cornwall National Landscape’s Section 08 South Coast Western, of which 14,170 hectares could be agricultural land. The overall intervention area for the PES opportunities in Section 08, based on the Lizard Farmer Group extrapolations and the area available for agricultural land, are estimated at 4,308 hectares. These are very high-level estimates using average values based on a small sample size of farmers, with above-average interest in environmental interventions. There might, however, be a lower proportion of agricultural land on the Lizard due to the large extent of semi-natural habitats. This would also require buy-in from a larger group of farmers and landowners in the Lizard, with whom Cornwall National Landscape might not have already engaged. At the £550 per hectare asking price, the total annual required investment would be £2.4M or £71.1M over 30 years. This could generate an estimated gross margin of £500,000 a year for buyers. Estimated ROI per year = 21%

Information for Researchers & Strategic Organisations

Project Timeline

2016 – Natural Capital in the Protected Landscape (Research Project) Natural capital put simply is the elements of the natural environment that provide humans with services, services, such as flood control, water and air quality, carbon storage and food production.

2018 – Farming for the Nation Test Trial Cornwall National Landscape test trial examined how Defra’s Future Schemes (ELM – Environment Land Management) can use a fuller understanding of natural capital, and ecosystem services, to provide a positive change for the biodiversity and heritage of the Lizard Peninsula, whilst also delivering wider multiple benefits for local communities.

2021 – NEIRF Project (something that highlights this as the project you are looking at ie current)

2022 – Seedcorn – Lizard Farm for Nature

We worked with consultants:

  • University of exeter
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