Two contrasting phases of work are described that help inform the development and requirements of a soil monitoring system: firstly, the development and application of a multi-criterion analysis of soil quality indicators grounded in the basic natural sciences; and secondly, scrutiny of the outcome of that process by a wide range of non-specialist but key stakeholders at a workshop. This process ensures that the final monitoring design meets both the scientific rigour expected from a monitoring system and as far as possible meets the aspirations of policy and regulatory stakeholders. Individual indicators of soil quality were evaluated in terms of their applicability against a number of important environmental and logistical parameters and therefore their overall fitness for purpose. These included relevance to different soil types, functions, habitats and threats to soil, the inherent variability of soil, and a range of technical aspects such as analytical complexity, precision and reproducibility of analytical results and whether a standard operating procedure (SOP) existed for the technique. A tiered approach to soil monitoring was supported by workshop delegates. This will require indicators that are suitable and effective at national, site-specific and process-level scales. In addition, the opportunities for synchronizing soil monitoring with air and water quality monitoring should be considered and the potential for integrating on-site measurements with remote methods should be researched further. It was considered by workshop attendees that soil monitoring should be rooted in pedological principles (i.e. recognizing defined soil horizons) to ensure that results can be extrapolated from individual sites and to retain flexibility.