Farrer On ... Why we need a land strategy

The idea that farming has something to do with housing supply may seem tenuous. The reality is that our landscapes are so interdependent that the land management and decisions about what happens in one place have a direct impact on what happens in another

I was brought up in the farming community in the 1960s and 1970s. If you asked to buy a field, you would be leaving with a flea in your ear. Proud farmers would deliver the time-held axiom that you never sell.

Farmers' deeply held belief was that they inherited the land, they are its present manager and that while providing themselves with a livelihood this responsibility will be passed on to their children. They know that fewer fields means less security.

Farmers' livelihood has been made increasingly impossible since the 1970s by the rise of supermarkets promoting the idea that paying less is good. The unintended consequences of this have been profound.

As Mr Monbiot has pointed out in the Lake District and in many upland areas land management is now completely unsustainable and the price of agricultural products from milk to strawberries is held in a kind of hideous paralysis between farmers clinging on to their culture and penury. It is further perpetuated by a perverse system of grants and handouts that just about drip feeds their world.

So the depressed farmer today has finally thrown in the towel. They welcome the housing developer with open arms to destroy the sustainability of their farms and invite them to build houses in the countryside.

This willing seller of easily developable land means that the truly sustainable regeneration of our towns will not be seen as viable and therefore will not be considered.

Our towns and their councils have no cash.

They need the lifeblood of regeneration brought by developers servicing a demanding housing market. Building on our countryside was never the answer.

Landscapes are all joined together. The appalling politics and management of our land have led to the watering down and destruction of the rural economy and taken away the opportunity to see much needed improvement in the heart of many of our towns.

Surely this signals the importance and imperative for a national land strategy through which we can take responsibility via the considered management of all our land, urban and rural.

Only with joined-up thinking can we deliver sustainable, healthy places and make everybody's lives better in the process.

Noel Farrer is a founding partner of Farrer Huxley Associates


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