Pilots test better decisions about land

People in Devon and Cambridgeshire explain how a Land Use Framework could accelerate change for their communities

31st January 2023

Two major pilot projects are currently underway in England to test how a Land Use Framework will operate. This vital work ‘on-the-ground’ provides much needed detail to support growing calls - including an upcoming report from the Royal Society, Multifunctional landscapes, for a new way to manage land. As recognised by the Royal Society, the House of Lords and the Green Alliance with their recent reports, there is an urgent need to fast track decisions about energy, tree planting, nature restoration, housing and more. Now the question is how best to make it work.

This is where the pilots come in. FFCC is working with the Geospatial Commission and others to help deliver these pilots, which aim to deploy better spatial data, involve communities, and test a new way of making decisions about land. These learnings will help support the government’s publication of a Land Use Framework later this year.

The Land Use Framework pilots, led by FFCC and the Geospatial Commission in Devon and Cambridgeshire, together with partners in the Environment Agency, British Geological Survey and beyond, are due to report in spring 2023.

More detail on the Pilots

Teams in Devon and Cambridgeshire are working with local communities and leaders to develop ways of making better decisions about land in the two counties.

In Devon, real-world test cases are being explored with communities, landowners and managers at trial sites this month, and a prototype land use decision support tool will be created in a design sprint led by FFCC and British Geological Survey in February.

In Cambridgeshire, a series of listening events, held in 2022, heard that citizens and local leaders want change, including community-led housing developments, but felt that their knowledge was not being incorporated into the decision-making. Building on this, work is now underway with local institutions to develop a prototype framework backed by spatial modelling for March 2023.

More about the Royal Society’s Multifunctional landscapes report

If you are a member of the press please contact the Royal Society’s press office for more details. Find out more about the Royal Society’s Multifunctional landscapes programme

"People are eager to be involved in solutions and don’t want to just be dismissed as nimbies."

Policy delivery expert Sir Michael Barber has welcomed the pilots:

"It’s great to see clear messages already emerging from the pilot projects designed to test out a Land Use Framework. People are eager to be involved in solutions and don’t want to just be dismissed as nimbies. They accept the need for new housing, local food solutions, better energy infrastructure and all the other challenges a Land Use Framework could help to answer."

"A Land Use Framework for Devon could help us better plan for and prioritise actions."

Local leaders and landowners involved in these pilots echo the Land Use Framework’s potential to accelerate change.

The team at Clinton Devon Estates take a multifunctional and evidence-led approach to the organisation’s 25,000 acres along the banks of the Lower Otter, and hosts a trial site of the Devon Land Use Framework. Commenting on the pilot, Dr Sam Bridgewater, Head of Wildlife and Conservation, said, “Under the Devon Land Use Framework Pilot, Clinton Devon Estates, along with many other landowners and land managers in Devon, are sharing their experiences of what can help or constrain the making of good decisions regarding land use. … It is hoped that this can help guide all those who manage the countryside so that decisions made now deliver far into the future the best possible outcomes for the environment, for people and for the economy.”

Watch: how the Clinton Devon Estates team plan for a fair and sustainable future

The Blackdown Hills AONB Partnership’s Manager Tim Youngs has also welcomed the pilot: “A Land Use Framework for Devon could help us better plan for and prioritise actions ... in order to restore our landscapes and waterways in a way which meets the needs of local communities and helps deliver government ambition."

British forester, businessman and landowner Sir Harry Studholme spoke about the framework a recent meeting of local leaders, commenting, "Demands on our Devon land are increasing even as more information about it becomes available. Bringing people together to share agreed data could be a benefit of a Land Use Framework … It could help manage inevitable tensions, including the fine grain between the national and the local.”

"If we don't make spaces - for nature, for food growing, and for community benefit - then we will pay the price."

FFCC Commissioner and Cambridgeshire Co-Chair Dame Fiona Reynolds commented on the county’s pilot project: “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 Land Use Framework must cover the full gamut of issues that affect the land, all major land uses … the national framework must dovetail with more local ones to ensure legitimacy and effective engagement with people.   Without this it will be a missed opportunity to deliver better value for the public by breaking decision-making out of silos.”

Gavin Shelton, Founder and CEO of Cambridgeshire’s CoFarm and Co-Chair of FFCC Cambridgeshire was also involved in the listening events. “I think there is a growing recognition ... that actually, if we don't make spaces - for nature, and for food growing, and for community benefit, and for nourishing our communities – then we will pay the price down the line for it. ... I think the answer is, don't make excuses for not using land wisely.”

Watch: how CoFarm uses land to address food insecurity, restore nature and tackle climate change.