Key learnings from FFCC pilots so far:
England is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, and the pressure on land is growing. Commitments to supercharge clean energy, plant trees, restore nature, build housing, tackle flooding and provide food for the nation all rely on land - and we can't make more of it.
Finding ways to manage these competing demands on land is complex and difficult. Land use is too often presented as a binary choice. Either we have new affordable housing or improve people’s access to healthy green space. Either we preserve ancient woodland, or we introduce greener transport. We urgently need a different approach to land use, meeting multiple needs, to find better solutions overall.
A Land Use Framework enables both national and local policymakers, businesses and communities to navigate better the pressures and opportunities already in front of them.
A Land Use Framework is a way to manage these competing needs and bring people together. It could help ensure that new housing developments are close to jobs and public transport, solar panels are put in the right place, healthy food is accessible within communities, rivers are kept clean and much more.
It can be flexible and responsive to local needs and bring together existing plans and strategies. The detail of how it works in practice is being tested in two pilot projects.
Since we first put forward a Land Use Framework in 2019, evidence and support for the idea has grown.
Key reports such as the Foresight Land Use Futures report (2010), the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s Natural Capital Leaders Platform (2014), the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy (2019), the Committee on Climate Change’s Land Use: Policies for a net zero UK report (2020), the National Food Strategy (2021), the Royal Society (2023) and the House of Lords Committee on Land Use in England (2023) have all called for a framework.
Other organisations recommending such an approach include the Royal Town Planning Institute, Green Alliance, Shared Assets, CPRE, WWF, RSPB, County Councils Network, Chatham House and the government’s Geospatial Commission.
DEFRA has committed to publishing a Land Use Framework for England in the Government Food Strategy and has repeated its commitment in parliament. The House of Lords Land Use Committee published its recommendations for a Land Use Framework on 13 Dec 2022.
Chapter 5 of the report, which focuses on the Land Use Framework recommendation, reflects many of FFCC's recommendations to ensure that the focus of the framework is as broad as possible – and not narrowly framed around agriculture and nature. The adoption of a broad and comprehensive Land Use Framework presents a huge opportunity to tackle interlinking issues. It could enable government departments to work together and find fair and sustainable solutions to challenges across transport, energy, infrastructure, renewables, food production, housing and more.
A Land Use Framework is being tested in Devon and Cambridgeshire, counties with stark inequalities and multiple pressures on land. Working together, local government, farmers, landowners and communities will design decision-making processes for their areas.
In Devon, a series of places and projects in the Exe Catchment where land use decisions are already being considered will test the framework tools and processes. Work is also underway with the Geospatial Commission and British Geological Survey to co-design a land use decision support tool that could help decision makers manage real world land use challenges.
In Cambridgeshire, a spatial modelling prototype is being developed to bring together different data and priorities, which will be tested alongside the framework in ongoing scenarios and processes.
Both pilots will share evidence in early 2023.
A Land Use Framework should mean better decisions are made about how land is used – that new housing developments are close to public transport, that wind turbines are placed in optimal locations, that healthy food is accessible within communities, that rivers are kept clean, that nature is protected and much much more.