Architect Terry Farrell has backed rural campaigners’ call for a national approach to land use to prevent ‘piecemeal erosion of the countryside’
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has published a document arguing for greater coordination of land use so as to enhance the environment and the economy.
Solutions proposed by 14 high-profile contributors, including Farrell, politicians, academics and engineers, include the creation of a new ‘Department of Land Use’.
The CPRE’s report, Landlines: why we need a strategic approach to land, suggests the current ‘fragmented’ approach and ‘lack of control over non-urban land uses’ means the country is ‘failing to deal effectively with the conflicts and complexities’ of the way we use land. More effective use is needed, it adds, to tackle issues such as the housing crisis, biodiversity, food production, recreation, flooding and energy supply.
Lord Deben, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, proposes a new government department should oversee the release of land owned by government agencies and quasi-governmental bodies and impose levies - on land with planning permission that remains undeveloped – to discourage land banking.
‘There’s no hope of sensible land use while planning is imprisoned within the Department for Communities and Local Government, agriculture in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, infrastructure in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and long-term transport planning in the Department for Transport,’ he writes. ‘We need a Department of Land Use which would bring the strategic elements of all these together.’
Baroness Young, chair of the Woodland Trust, argues that the ‘silver lining’ following Brexit is the ‘opportunity to design an integrated land use strategy from scratch’.
Architect and urban planner Farrell, who is working on a new eco-town at North West Bicester, calls for ‘proactive spatial planning’. He said: ‘Pollution, climate change and the ever increasing reduction in natural species, as well as human city-making on an unprecedented scale, have made the proper planning of land use a top priority for our very survival in the long term.
‘The scale, complexity and seriousness of these issues mean we cannot any longer proceed as before, treating land as a disposable asset. We have now got to plan proactively for rapid and radical change.’
Belinda Gordon, head of government and rural affairs at the CPRE, said a national approach on land use was ‘more important than ever’. ‘We are making big decisions in isolation, and not thinking about what kind of wider pressures individual developments bring – to the land, the climate, the economy and our health and wellbeing.
‘A national land use strategy would bring treasury and infrastructure officials on board with environmentalists, and replace piecemeal erosion of the countryside with exciting projects and community trust.’