We're working with local authorities, farmers, environmental agencies, NGOs and other interested groups to develop a land use framework for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and help better ways for making decisions about land evolve in the county.
The learnings from Listening to Cambridgeshire will be combined with land-based research and discussions with partners and stakeholders to offer a real-life insight into what people in the county’s priorities are and what they want from where they live.
Piloting a land use framework on the ground in Cambridgeshire is a critical part of our research and advocacy work for a land use framework across the whole of England.
As part of our land use framework pilot, we're listening to people across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as they share their views about the places where they live, their relationships with land and nature, and their hopes, aspirations and fears about potential land use changes which would affect their and their children’s futures.
From Wisbech to Melbourn, from community-based food hubs to senior citizen groups, we're going to where these everyday conversations are already happening, to amplify the voices not normally heard in discussions around land use.
This will inform our work to support better ways of making decisions about land in the county, ensuring diverse, grassroots voices are integrated with those of established stakeholders, to influence longer term decision-making that will impact their lives and livelihoods.
Our listening tour has hit the road with the first two sessions in Ramsey. Researchers Alison Caffyn and Alice Midmer facilitated the conversations, hearing citizens voicing frustration at lack of joined up planning and missed opportunities. "Why can't we plan nature, allotments and green space into housing developments?"
The people of Cambridgeshire face significant challenges: a gulf between rich and poor, a degraded natural environment, poor connections between rural and urban areas, and intense pressures for development that are challenging the natural resource base, especially water. The county is also part of a vital agricultural region, which is adapting its farming practices in the face of climate change.
Cambridgeshire's excellent soil makes it an important location for a wide variety of crop and horticultural production, as well as pig and poultry farming, with three-quarters of the county's land used for agriculture. The county is home to the Fens, areas of low-lying marshland many of which were drained centuries ago to form agricultural land. The low-lying nature of the land and coastal erosion makes it vulnerable to rising sea levels, whilst low levels of rainfall in the region generally makes it vulnerable to water shortages. The agricultural and food and drink industry is a major employer in the county, and post-Brexit migrant labour a critical part of this complex puzzle.
Before our work in Cambridgeshire began, FFCC commissioned research into sustainable soil practice in the region, led by Iain Gould at Lincoln Institute of Agri-Food Technology (LIAT) and funded by the Ashden Trust, culminating in a 2019 report Sustainable Soil Practice and Promotion in Lincolnshire.
Across UK countries and counties, citizens are taking action. FFCC teams hit the road (on our bikes) in 2021 to find out how they are making change, and what government and business can do to support them. Together, these stories form our Field Guide for the Future