Natural England Upland Vision a fairytale, say tenants

Natural England has launched a detailed strategy for the future of the uplands over the next 50 years.

But the images of thriving communities and an environmental haven have been branded “a fairy tale” by the Tenant Farmers Association.

Vital Uplands – a 2060 Vision for England’s upland environment was launched at Ilkley, west Yorkshire, on Thursday (12 November) where Natural England said the importance of the uplands must be highlighted to “society as a whole”.

“We hope the changes we have proposed will provide a common goal that inspires everyone to embrace future change and play their part in achieving this vision.

“We want to stimulate new thinking and action and encourage those who farm and manage upland landscapes to seek out new and sustainable business ventures.”

Natural England set out a detailed plan of “changes for the better” that it believed would lead to an improved upland environment and economy.

It included the development of grazing systems that were “closer to nature, a plan for more and better managed woodland, a commitment to renewable energy, increasing awareness of low-carbon growth for businesses and tourism”. It also included an ongoing policy to improve the public’s understanding of the upland environment.

But the document also stated that new markets and other support have “revolutionised” the way upland land managers generated their income.

In a section headed “reward and recognition” it said: “Upland farmers and other land managers are rewarded for providing a range of vital environmental goods and services, primarily by the people and places that benefit.

“Innovative new markets and other support encourage practices that achieve the vision’s outcomes. This has revolutionised the way upland land managers generate their income.”

The TFA wasted no time in sharply criticising Natural England’s proposals. TFA Uplands spokesman Mike Keeble said: “The authors of this report have clearly taken their inspiration more from Lewis Carroll than from the experiences of those who live and work in our upland communities.

“It is long on aspiration and short on the practicalities involved in being an active land manager in some of the harshest yet paradoxically most beautiful environments in our country.”