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England needs a Land Use Framework, says Lords Committee

13 December 2022

The House of Lords Land Use Committee has published its report, ’Making the most out of England’s Land’.

Key conclusions

England has many competing priorities on land as we look to balance food production, nature and biodiversity restoration, carbon sequestration, housing, infrastructure, and access and wellbeing.

There is a lack of information about Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) which is creating a lot of uncertainty for landowners, managers, and other decision makers.

Deciding what to do with land is complex, contested and can involve difficult trade-offs. Separating land issues can be difficult as they are interlinked and interdependent.

Outside of the planning system competing land use needs are not assessed by any overarching framework across England and there is no formal advisory or coordinating body outside of Government departments.

The Green Belt is currently limited to containing and minimising urban sprawl.

Key recommendations

Create a Land Use Commission tasked with producing a land use framework. The framework must consider several factors, including food, nature, housing needs and the push for net zero. 

The Government needs to provide immediate clarity on the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) programme, ending the uncertainty which is causing serious problems for effective land use. 

There must be a multifunctional approach to the land, with multiple benefits being achieved in the same place, so that food production and environmental needs are combined with other uses where possible. This approach must be supported with an up to date and accessible evidence base. 

Reforms are needed to support provision of green and open spaces and to make more effective use of Green Belt land for public access, nature and biodiversity. 

Strengthen the planning system to help support nature and agriculture alongside new development, and to encourage better cross-border working. 

Chair’s comments

“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.”

Further Information