‘New perspective on land use needed for 21st century’

The report, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Communities and Local Government (CLG), outlines the findings of an extensive two-year study involving more than 300 experts in subjects ranging from ecology, economics, planning and geography.

Its main findings are that:

Land is a versatile national asset playing a crucial role in fostering people’s physical and mental wellbeing, and supporting prosperity. But the land system will come under new pressures over the next 50 years:

* From climate change;
* A growing and ageing population with more people living alone; and new demands
* The rise of the low carbon agenda alongside rising expectations associated with growing incomes – more space for living and better transport.

Decisions will be needed on crucial issues such as how to balance local and national interests; what is the appropriate mix of market incentives and regulation to guide future land use change, and how government can improve the strategic use of space and assets when land is mostly under private ownership.

Professor John Beddington, the Government’s Chief Scientist and the project director said: "Together with our human capital, land is possibly our greatest asset.

"It supports our prosperity, our wellbeing and forms the bedrock of our cultural and national identity. However, many of the current systems and ideas about what is the best use of land date back to around the Second World War. A land management system fit for the 21st century needs to draw on the latest science and evidence on how changes in the use and management of land interact to affect people and the natural environment, and to reflect the diversity of benefits that land can deliver.

"This project is the first even-handed look across such a broad spectrum of land use sectors, spanning rural and urban uses including, agriculture, transport and housing. The analysis highlights the challenges, opportunities and choices we face.

"Business as usual is not an option over the long-term. Without being smart about how land is used, we risk missing targets, such as halting biodiversity loss. The effects of climate change and new pressures on land could escalate, seriously eroding quality of life.

"These are big issues which require national oversight and the report argues that strategic objectives to guide future land use change are needed. This detailed report finds that Government now needs to find a way to coordinate work across land use sectors, promote the smarter use of land and to reward land owners and managers for sustainable practices."

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