As demands on rural land increase and we are all having to deal with the effects of climate change, we may need to take a fresh look at our priorities, according to leading academics at The Future of Rural Land Use, a conference organised by the UK Research Councils’ Rural Economy and Land Use Programme on 4 June 2009.
Director of the Relu Programme, Professor Philip Lowe, said: “Our approach to the countryside in the UK has swung from a post World War 2 outlook of relentless expansion of food production, to surpluses in the 1970s and 80s, which gave us the opportunity for an unprecedented focus on conservation.
“But now we are once again experiencing anxieties about food security and a possible global food crisis. And this time we have climate change in the picture bringing additional demands on land. We need space for growing new biofuel crops and for water storage that could save more populated areas from flooding, we may need additional room for mobile or flexible infrastructure during extreme weather events, and yet at the same time more people than ever want to live in rural areas or to use the countryside for leisure pursuits, whether that means angling, shooting, walking, bird watching or horse riding.”
Relu researchers are coming up with some of the evidence that the government will need to make decisions about these kinds of priorities:
Research from the Relu Programme will be important for the complex policy decisions about land use that need to be taken at national and regional level.
Professor Philip Lowe said: “As we come to expect more and more from land, we have to decide what our priorities for land use are in the UK. We are well used to operating within a land use planning system in urban areas. Any system to be applied to rural land use would have to be much more flexible. There would undoubtedly be opposition from some land owners but we know that land will be a major asset for society in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Is it not time, at least for a wider public debate on this issue?”
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