It has been reported that a farmer in Sussex has rebuffed an offer for his land 100 times its current value – partly based on a desire to protect the countryside for future generations. CPRE welcomes such commitment to the countryside, but also argues that this case once again illustrates the failures of our planning system in encouraging aggressive, speculative development. Graeme Willis, senior rural affairs campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:
“This seems exceptional on a number of levels. We recently heard of a case where an offer of 20 times the current value of land was turned down, so 100 times is very significant. It is also extremely admirable that the farmer in question has reportedly rebuffed the offer for quality of life and community reasons. He has sought to preserve the countryside for the generations after his – and has placed these considerations above financial incentives.
“It is invidious that so many landowners are put in this position by highly speculative land acquisition – especially where there is huge community opposition and no planning permission. The current developer-led planning system has significantly increased the regularity and pressure of speculative development – which is both divisive and distressing for communities. In its place, we need a plan-led system where the focus is on land that people want to see developed – like the brownfield sites around the country that can provide the space for one million new homes.
“Finally, the value of farmland must be emphasised more in the debates about new housing. Unless we have a better way of factoring in the production value of land, rather than always seeing it trumped by development value, then we will continue to lose vital farmland that feeds our rural and urban areas. Climate change and global pressures on land necessitate the preservation of our best farmland for food production – not unwanted and unsustainable housing developments.”
CPRE expressed disappointment at today’s announcement by Defra on how much money rural development measures, including green farming schemes, will receive. The Government has decided to limit to 12% the amount of money that will be transferred from payments to farmers for schemes that help wildlife and improve the quality of the countryside.
CPRE had called on the Government to transfer the maximum 15% from farming payments, to maximise the value for money to the public and to give wildlife habitats and landscape features the support they need. However, CPRE is pleased that Defra has recognised concerns that the new green farming scheme needs to make maintaining landscape character a higher priority.
Ian Woodhurst, Senior Farming Campaigner said: ‘CPRE is disappointed that the Government has failed to give the countryside and the public what they deserve by not giving green farming schemes the funding boost they needed. We have serious concerns that the new green farming scheme will be severely limited in its scope; particularly when it comes to improving the quality of our much loved landscapes that are so vital to the rural economy.’