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Land Use in England needs a framework to tackle conflicting priorities and emerging challenges – Lords Committee

Tuesday 13 December 2022

An independent Land Use Commission tasked with producing a land use framework covering food, nature, forestry, energy, housing needs and the push for net zero is essential to make the most out of England’s land.

This is one of the key recommendations in a report published today entitled Making the most out of England’s land from the cross-party House of Lords Land Use in England Committee.

The report urges the Government to set up the Land Use Commission as a statutory body and argues that the Commission should prepare and update the land use framework as part of its role. The framework should seek to help balance food production with other emerging land use needs.

Other key conclusions and recommendations from the Committee’s report include:

The current uncertainty around the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) programme is causing serious problems for effective land use. The Government must provide immediate clarity on the ELMS programme to give certainty and confidence to the farmers and other land managers.

A multifunctional approach to the land, with multiple benefits being achieved in the same place, must be an essential component of the land use framework. This approach must be supported with an up to date and accessible evidence base. The concepts of integration and multifunctionality are key to success. The aim of the framework should be to replace the current siloed approach to land use policy with a deliberative and cooperative technique in order to make use of the opportunities and synergies that provides.

Access to green spaces is important for health and wellbeing, especially in urban and peri-urban locations near where people live.  Access to green space must be a priority in a land use framework, and provision and maintenance of accessible green space must also be strengthened in existing policies.

A land use framework must operate seamlessly alongside any local current planning and development policies and should also be cognizant of housing and development needs in particular areas as well as supporting infrastructure. The planning system should be strengthened to help support nature and agriculture alongside new development, and to encourage better cross-border working. Urgent attention needs to be given to ensure that planning departments are properly resourced with the necessary skills, and local authorities should be encouraged to share expertise and work together.

Commenting on the report Lord Cameron of Dillington, Chair of the Land Use in England Committee, said;

“Land use in England is facing a growing number of conflicting pressures and demands including for food, nature, biodiversity, net zero targets, housing, energy and wellbeing.

“Throughout this inquiry we repeatedly heard evidence that showcased the need for guidance and clarity in the form of an overarching framework to assist farmers, landowners and land managers to make the most effective use of their land.

“The Government cannot afford to deprioritise this issue. We urge the Government to set up a Land Use Commission with responsibility for creating a land use framework which will help identify and address current and emerging challenges and opportunities for land use in England. The framework is essential to support effective land use strategies and tackle the many challenges currently faced.

“In addition to this national framework, regional priorities should be encouraged through the proposed Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS). The Government must ensure LNRS are given appropriate funding and prominence in the planning system to enable them operate successfully and gain traction amongst farmers and other land managers.”

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