The right tool, within grasp

FFCC Commissioner Dame Fiona Reynolds responds to the House of Lords Committee report on Land Use and their recommendation for a Land Use Framework.

13th December 2022

One of the first lessons economics students learn is that the building blocks of the economy are labour, enterprise, capital and land.  Yet government policy focuses almost entirely on the first three, and consistently overlooks the last. This is problematic when so many important government targets, from housing and energy to water, farming and nature are reliant on choices about how we use land. 

Currently, there is no mechanism in England for making decisions about land or managing competing ambitions for it.

As a result, too little is getting done, and tensions proliferate. Major projects come forward in isolation and are often contentious. New housing developments, too often sited inappropriately, are met with fierce local opposition. New onshore wind development is effectively banned. Tree planting targets are missed. Farming reforms struggle to engage farmers. The list goes on.

To get a better grip on how we use and allocate land, the government has committed to publishing a Land Use Framework for England in 2023. Today, a House of Lords committee published the findings of its recent inquiry into the subject, drawing on written and oral evidence from a range of experts in the UK and beyond.

It’s therefore a huge moment of opportunity to ensure government commitments get delivered in a sustainable way through better use of land.

The report provides assurance on two critical issues that FFCC has long been making the case for.  The first is that the framework must cover the full gamut of issues that affect the land, both those that fall within the land use planning system (like housing and infrastructure) and those (like farming and nature) that are outside it, or it will fall at the first hurdle. The report is very clear that the Framework must be owned across government and cover all major land uses.

Without this it will be a missed opportunity to deliver better value for the public by breaking decision making out of silos.

The second is that the national framework must dovetail with more local ones to ensure legitimacy and effective engagement with people.  

All this should help reduce delays and conflict, and guide development and investment to the right places. Pilot projects run by FFCC have started in Cambridgeshire and Devon to test how a Land Use Framework could work. The message is clear. People are eager to be involved.  They accept the need for new housing and better energy infrastructure, and they yearn for sustainable food production and nature recovery. They want to help find solutions that are good for people, the economy and the environment. 

The Prime Minister is determined to right the economy and deliver on his promises. Here is a tool that will make sense of competing ambitions and deliver government commitments currently in stasis with land, finally, at its heart. 

Dame Fiona Reynolds, FFCC Commissioner and Cambridgeshire Co-Chair