The Lords' Land Use Committee established its inquiry into land use in England at the beginning of the year in January. The purpose of the review was to understand what policies and approaches will be required in the future to manage the changing demands on land use in England and in particular their implications on the welfare of our natural environment.
The report’s key finding is focused on the need for a Land Use Commission, which would be charged with developing a framework to guide a range of stakeholders - landowners, managers and other decision-makers – in their decisions on land use. In addition, the report highlights the importance of Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) and the role that they could play in engaging communities in decisions concerning land use.
In developing its report, the Committee invited written evidence and held several stakeholder sessions in Parliament. IEMA was delighted to be one of the organisations invited to give oral evidence to the Committee in April. We were represented by our CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE.
Some of the main insights that Sarah shared with the Committee centred on the need for greater community engagement in LNRS development and in the process a more holistic approach to be taken to environmental protection and enhancement i.e. one that goes beyond narrowly defined interpretations of ‘nature’. The Committee's recommendations in relation to the introduction of LNRS are therefore very welcome.
Other points made by Sarah included the need for the appropriate skills and resources to be in place to properly integrate biodiversity and natural capital considerations into decision-making. Today’s report rightly recognises that the incoming policy on Biodiversity Net Gain must be accompanied by proper monitoring and enforcement.
Most of the Committee’s report is focused on land use outside of the planning system, and this is the space in which the proposed Commission would predominantly operate in.
But it is also important to consider what is necessary to safeguard the environment within the context of planned development. Namely that legislation and the policymaking process prioritises effective environmental impact assessment (EIA).
In some of the work that IEMA has been doing around the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, we have called for a national impact assessment unit to be established to bolster the role of EIA in England and to provide support to planning teams within local authorities. We will continue to champion this as the Bill passes its ways through Parliament.
The goal remains that we need an approach to land use that fully understands and addresses the challenges set out in the summary to the Committee’s report – to connect the dots between nature and biodiversity, development and infrastructure, alongside the role of land for energy and wellbeing.
The Lords' Land Use Committee’s report can be found here.
Posted on 13th December 2022
Written by Ben Goodwin
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