9 January 1998

Poster puts soils at risk on display

THIRTY-SEVEN localities where soil is under threat have been pinpointed on a free poster launched by the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

It marks the CPREs determination to keep up the pressure on the government to match the previous administrations declared intention to publish a Soil Protection Strategy, following a 1996 Royal Commission report Sustainable Use of Soil.

The CPRE says the most direct threat to soil is its irreversible loss to urban development. An area of rural land the size of Bristol is lost in this way each year, and it is estimated that more than 77sq miles (200sq km) of urban England lie officially derelict.

At current rates of loss, a fifth of England will be urbanised by 2050. Nevertheless, 29 of the CPRE pinpointed sites are claimed to be threatened by various aspects of agriculture. Details for the map were supplied by Dick Thompson, of the Soil Survey and Land Research Centre, and by soil scientist Bob Evans, of East Anglia University.

"We are not trying to target farmers in particular," claimed Gregor Hutcheon, CPRE rural affairs officer. "However, we do oppose the policies that encourage farmers to adopt unsustainable practices."

The CPRE lists these practices as ranging from intensive cropping and drainage resulting in wind erosion of peat soils near Ely, to excess nutrient application on the Cotswolds and overgrazing with sheep in Cumbria. &#42