David Miliband calls for debate about land use

DEFRA secretary David Miliband has called for a radical re-think on land use to take account of climate change impacts and to enhance the quality and beauty of the environment.

Mr Miliband told a Campaign to Protect Rural England conference that there was “potential to put the green back into the green belt” as well as the development of ‘turquoise belts’ alongside rivers and waterways to protect homes against flooding while improving biodiversity and recreation.

“The way we use and manage land fundamentally affects our economy, our environment, and our social cohesion,” he said.

“We face new pressures that will force changes in how land is used and managed, from demographic change to climate change. Preservation of the status quo is not an option.

“I want to ask ‘what is land for?’ and why do we value land? We need a new consensus and a new vision for Britain and how it makes the most out if its land.

Mr Miliband stressed that climate change meant that land use would have to change, with more used to generate low-carbon energy through wind-farms, solar power and biofuels, as well as forests and wetlands to absorb carbon emissions.

“The majority of land will remain farmland, but the environmental footprint of farms must change,” he said.

“This will require major change – farming methods that reduce water pollution and soil erosion, and greater use of biofuels. We must think how our farming subsidies can deliver the maximum level of environmental public goods.”

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