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Land: a ‘shared asset’

Looking west near Steeple, Purbeck. Looking west near Steeple, Purbeck. CPRE

CPRE is very interested in land and how it is used. In many of our publications, we make the point that it should be considered more, be debated more and used more wisely.

So it is natural that we’d want to have a chat with our friends at Shared Assets whose strapline is ‘land for the common good’. Both organisations want to see land and its use have a higher profile. Both organisations agree that it is taken for granted. For example, it is not even mentioned in the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, yet this is the resource all economic activity is, literally, based on.

As demonstrated in CPRE’s recent publication, Landlines: why we need a strategic approach to land, land in England is facing unprecedented pressures: climate change, rising population and aspiration, yet there is no vision or principles guiding decisions about its use. It is vital that organisations such as ourselves and Shared Assets continue to push for land use to be taken more seriously and the decision-making process to be improved.

With all these pressures, coupled with new policies that are going to emerge in the light of Brexit, the countryside is going to change. CPRE has never been an organisation that tries to resist change – it has always been about directing that change, about ensuring that change happens in the best possible way, a way that provides what we and future generations need, not just what we want now. Yet it can feel like we are moving towards a ‘Tesco-isation’ of the countryside as farms get ever bigger and less connected to rural communities.

We talked to Tom Kenny of Shared Assets about change in the countryside – in particular the future of farming post-Brexit. He highlighted some really exciting rays of light that offer an alternative vision for the future of the countryside, where large farms co-exist with smaller farms doing diverse and innovative things. When I think about the examples he gave, such as the Ecological Land Co-operative, and the others highlighted in our New Model Farming report, such as Stephen Brigg’s use of agro-forestry, I feel excited about the future of our countryside and our land. I really hope this time of change will mean more people become more interested in land and involved in decisions about its use.

Land in England is facing unprecedented pressures.

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