This morning I spoke at the parliamentary launch of CPRE‘s Countryside Next Door report, I said:
The Green Party welcomes moves to improve the stewardship of green belt land and protect access to the countryside for all. These green spaces are vital for the health and wellbeing of those who live in urban areas. Recreation and access to land, which we know are so crucial to human health and well-being, need to be considered alongside what crops we grow on that land. We need to re-localise our food supply, restore the ring of market gardens and orchards that not that long ago surrounded our cities and towns. Instead of vast tracts of monoculture the Green Party wants to see the growing of fruit and vegetables, ideally in a mixed system and managed in ways that are excellent for biodiversity and nature.
The population density of England is 279 people per square kilometre, that is more than four times that of Scotland and nearly twice that of Wales. Just 1% of the population own half the land in England with the other 99% having the right to roam on just 8% of the remainder.
We actually need about 130% of the land we actually have for all the uses we need it for. One answer to that is very clearly multiple uses: using land to grow food, to store carbon or for nature but also making it available for recreation and public use is one way to double our use of the available land.
Land needs to be managed for the common good. Profits can be made and returns can be taken, but we need to see all our land use managed under a strategy that works for the common good. We need a land use strategy that really works for people and nature. We need rules that stop the damaging use of land.
Obviously I would like ALL greenbelt land to be stewarded in a nature and people centred fashion so I warmly welcome CPRE’s recommendations that at least half of all designated Green Belt land should be covered by agreements under the government’s new Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes, and that ELM payments in all areas of England should depend upon recipients fulfilling existing legal requirements relating to access and not result in the loss of existing access rights.