Natural England - Making Environmental Stewardship More Effective (MESME)

Making Environmental Stewardship More Effective (MESME)

As part of the 2010 Government Spending Review and in response to various monitoring reports, Defra Ministers undertook to make Environmental Stewardship (ES) more effective and better targeted. The MESME project was established in the autumn of 2010 to take this forward.

A Project Board was established with members drawn from Defra, Natural England, the Rural Payments Agency, the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency. Stakeholders were actively engaged and were responsible for developing many of the proposals. The Project was formally closed at the end of February 2013.

MESME was initially made up of five strands of work:

  • Water quality
  • Collaboration and localism
  • Climate change
  • Making HLS more effective
  • Making ELS more effective

The MESME Project adapted to include trialling and testing a range of improvements to both HLS and ELS, aimed at more effective delivery of options on the ground. The trials specifically covered the scope for:

  • Directed option choice in agreements
  • Self monitoring of agreements by agreement holders and/or third parties
  • A more outcome-focused approach to agreements rather than a prescriptive one

This report summarises the findings of the MESME Project: (372kb)pdf document and sets out over 60 individual proposals which were developed as part of the project. Each proposal has either been introduced from 1 January 2013 or will inform/be further developed as part of the new Rural Development Programme, due to start in 2015. In a few cases the proposal was deemed no longer appropriate or possible and has been dropped.

MESME options approved by European Commission

The European Commission have approved a set of new ES options for agreements starting on or after 1 January 2013. Four of the options will also be available for existing agreements which are amended from this date.  The new options are:

Option codesOption nameAvailable to new / renewed agreements from 1 Jan 2013Available as an amendment from 1 Jan 2013
EB14Hedgerow restoration



EE12 / OE12Supplement to add wildflowers to field corners and buffer strips



EF23 / OF23 / HF24Supplementary feeding in winter for farmland birds



EK20 / OK20Ryegrass seed set as winter/spring food for birds



EK21 / OK21Legume and herb rich swards



Details of these options are contained in the 4th edition of the ELS and OELS handbooks (Section 3) and HLS handbook (Section 2). More information is also available on ELS priority options, including how to select the best options for your farm, the priorities in each local area and what proportion should be included in an agreement.

The supplementary feeding in winter for farmland birds options (EF23/OF23/HF24) aim to tackle declines in populations of many seed-eating birds by providing a good supply of grains over the winter to help them through the ‘hungry gap’. Farmers are encouraged to incorporate the options into their agreements from 1 January 2013. More information is available on these options and how to incorporate into your agreement.

Changes to existing options

From 1 January 2013 there were also some changes to ES option prescriptions and points values. These changes apply to new ELS agreements, Organic ELS agreements and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreements underpinned with ELS from that date. The changes, are set out in the information note: (177kb)pdf document, and full details can be found in the ELSexternal link and OELSexternal link fourth edition handbooks.

Q&A briefing on new options and changes to existing options

A question and answer briefing note: (316kb)pdf document provides additional guidance on what farmers/land managers and agents/advisers need to know if they are: 

  • Planning an application for a 2013 start date.
  • Interested in amending an agreement to incorporate the new options.

Further information

For any further information or queries regarding the new options, please contact Customer Services on 0300 060 0011 or