David Miliband’s Vision for the Future of the Land

david-miliband-120×180.jpgWe’ve got a summary of the speech David Miliband gave at our 80th Anniversary Conference for you to read and comment on- just click on the “continue reading” link below. Shaun Spiers, our Chief Executive, will be posting up his response to the speech shortly. We’ve also got a record of all the questions and answers that were asked at the conference, and will be posting up some of these next week.

A Land fit for the Future

How do we reconcile competing social, economic and environmental pressures on land use? Is it a simple zero sum game, or can we find a way of improving the economic value from land alongside the environmental and social value we get?

While there will be difficult trade-offs and tensions, it is possible to envisage a Britain that progresses on all three dimensions of sustainable development. But to achieve that goal, it will require significant changes in patterns of land use.

Over the next 80 years, I can imagine seeing five main changes in our land use. I set these out not out of a desire to create for some masterplan to reshape our countryside, but as a way of stimulating debate about how our land can cope with the challenges of a crowded country, the dangers of climate change and loss of biodiversity, while enhancing beauty.

First, there will continue to be a need for development; the question is where should it take place, and what sort should it be. In 1998 we set a target for concentrating 60 per cent of development in brownfield areas, to avoid urban sprawl. 77 per cent of development is now taking place in brownfield areas. The lesson is clear: the best policy for protecting rural England is urban renaissance. The progress of town and country go together. Of course, there are cases when brownfield development is not best. Nevertheless, the priority must be to continue to increase our housing supply in brownfield areas.

A key departure must be the move towards zero-carbon development. And here we need the consensus that can only be forged by a united environment movement. You cannot be serious about protecting the countryside unless you are serious about protecting the planet from climate change – that means welcoming zero-carbon homes and recognising that new wind-farms will be needed.

Second, in future we could see major changes in agricultural land – with more land used for energy crops, for natural flood management, for carbon sinks, such as wetlands and new forests, and for re-wilding – as woodlands, heathland and fenland. After the Second World War, our priority was food security. In the future, our challenges are more linked to environmental security.

Third, the majority of land in the country will remain farmland, but the environmental footprint of farms must change. The goal I have set out is for farming to become a net environmental contributor.

Fourth, we could see green belts turning a deeper shade of green. Some of our current green belt is of low quality in terms of wildlife, beauty and recreational access. Green belts are in some ways a misnomer. They were created to restrict urban sprawl rather than to mark out land as being of a high environmental quality. However, there is potential to put the green back into the green belt. This is surely an important priority for the future.

Fifth, we could see the development of what you could call ‘turquoise belts’ – strips of green space next to rivers. Rather than building expensive concrete barriers to insulate ourselves from flood risks, we could create what could be called ‘turquoise belts’. If and when the water spills over into the green space, it would not matter. These could be used for leisure and to improve biodiversity.

Getting there

Creating a country where we get more economic, social and environmental value from our land will require reforms to our systems of planning, land use and agriculture. I want to begin a debate on what sort of principles we must establish for a new system. I would suggest five main principles that should underpin our approach.

First, we are now beginning to value environment assets that in the past we have thought of as a free good. Carbon is the most obvious example, but carbon is just one environmental public good. There are range of eco-system services that regulate the climate, protect us from floods, purify water, and provide aesthetic and recreational value. We need to think through how we build in the idea of ‘environmental limits’ within the planning system.

Second, we should aim to develop a more proactive and positive to approach to land. The environmental focus on planning is often the control of development. Environmental value is protected and preserved rather than proactively enhanced. We need to think of quality green space as a sort of infrastructure, about how funding mechanisms can be used to invest not only in brown infrastructure – roads, railways, and power stations – but ‘green infrastructure’ in and around our cities and towns where most people live.

Third, we need to ask where should power and responsibility lie for improving our green infrastructure. Local authorities have a big role to play. We need to work with local government to ensure they create and improve green spaces within urban environments as a way of attracting and retaining people and businesses. Footloose companies do not choose to locate their high-paid employees in unattractive locations – however good the airport links.

Fourth, we must think how our farming subsidies can deliver the maximum level of environmental public goods. We will need to be increasingly clear about understanding what environmental goods we want to subsidise and how we can use the CAP to enable farmers to become net environmental investors.

Finally, If we are to make the transition towards a more sustainable countryside, we must address some traditional divisions in the environmental movement between those most interested in biodiversity and those most interested in landscape. We have created a powerful new champion of the countryside, Natural England, with a mission to promote nature conservation and protect biodiversity, preserve and enhance the landscape, and contribute to social and economic well-being. It will have a key role to play, especially at local level, working with communities and businesses to secure solutions which achieve environmental benefits and provide long-term economic and social improvements.


When it was founded the CPRE led a new national consensus on how we manage land in the future. It avoided what Anthony Bertram in 1938 describes as ‘the sort of arid conservatism which tries to mummify the countryside’. In the next 80 years, I hope CPRE can forge a similar consensus. The only given in this debate is that land use will change. What is up grabs is whether this happens in a way that ensures environmental, economic and social objectives go hand in hand, or at the expense of the other.

I have set out my views on some of the ways we might reshape the way we think about land. But this is not an agenda that should be left to political parties or politicians. It goes to the core of the way we live, the country we want to build and the legacy we want to leave for future generations. It can capture the imagination and passion of people for whom politics is often a remote concern. Government can help to spark a debate, but if we are to get a more mature, engaged debate, we must mobilise a broad coalition of interests, from citizens and community groups to farmers, developers, and local government. I look forward to working with you in the next year to do just that.

The full text of David Miliband’s speech can be viewed at DEFRA’s website:
> A Land Fit for the Future


38 responses

  1. I have already asked the Minister a question at the meeting and will be interested in his answer which he did not give at the time due to summarising influences.

    For those who did not come to the speech, the question I posed was, from memory:

    ‘Will the Minister demonstrate joined up government by influencing his colleagues in DfT who have provisionally approved schemes such as the Weymouth Relief Road that will damage the Dorset AONB and also exacerbate climate change factors?’

    I applaud the direction given, but my worry is the reliance on local government influences. Perhaps if every ‘green infrastructure’ development can be rounded off with a ribbon-cutting or plaque-unveiling ceremony, we could encourage local councillors to support the admirable aims that David Miliband set out. Excuse my cynicism.

    10 March, 2007 at 9:21 am

  2. Following David Miliband’s call for a “mature, engaged debate” I have set out 10 ‘provocations’ about land use strategy on my blog – see link. In summary:
    1. Convert more farmland to woodland
    2. Use CAP payments to buy environmental changes
    3. Move (more) cautiously on biofuels
    4. Make the land designation system more responsive to climate change
    5. Define and protect land as natural capital
    6. Reduce sheep grazing in the uplands
    7. Realign the coast
    8. Expand housing provision including more in the countryside
    9. Protect more urban brownfield land from development
    10.Replace the green belt with a green space strategy

    More detail at the link. [Please click on Clive Bates’ name above to visit his blog page (-ed)]

    Clive Bates

    13 March, 2007 at 10:08 am

  3. The speech by David Miliband was entertaining as well as appearing to support CPRE.

    I welcome his comment,that zero-carbon homes are needed but with the current activity in the North East I worry about the comment ‘recognising that new wind-farms will be needed’

    Location is all important and the way renwewables are subsidised. Minimum targets can only exacerbate the cumulative impact and there is the question of whether wind farms are actually reducing CO2 emissions as expectd.

    Therefore may I make two points.
    Firstly. Margarett Beckett assured us during the Barningham Campaign,fought as a landscape protection issue,that the Government was commited to protecting the landscape against inappropriate wind energy developments.

    Secondly, e-on have some revealing facts on fluctuating wind output and subsidies (web links below)

    > eon-kraftwerke.com
    > eon-kraftwerke.com

    15 March, 2007 at 8:47 am

  4. The David Miliband speech was extremely interesting, but I felt he failed to raise some very important issues regarding the future of our countryside and the role our communities can play within it.

    Fordhall Farm in North Shropshire is the the first example of community owned farmland in England; after 8000 people purchased £50 non-profit making shares to raise the £800,000 needed to save the organic farm from development last year. Achieved from the deep rooted need in so many to become reconnected to the land, our farm now not only produces organic food in partnership with the natural surroundings, but it is a social and economic reasource for the area.

    Fordhall Farm provides access through the nature trail, education through Forest Schools, social benefits through country events, and inclusion through volunteer opportunities and newsletters.

    In your speech you highlighted three major points. You suggested that farming should provide public goods; that the landscape is a basis for building national pride; and that we need a sense of cohesion and solidarity. You asked the question: “What is the land for? and Why do we value it?

    We have over 8000 shareholders who have taken an active interest in the land at Fordhall Farm and these supporters reach across the whole of the UK and even abroad. They have come together to protect the land for food production and social welfare for generations to come – they make the decisions; they have the responsibility. This is a ground roots-up approach and is working.

    I would like to know how important Mr Miliband sees the role of ‘reconnection to the land’and if he feels that community ownership has some answers for the future?

    More information on the pioneering scheme running at Fordhall can be found at

    16 March, 2007 at 1:33 pm

  5. Robert Bolt

    David Miliband said ‘You cannot be serious about protecting the countryside unless you are serious about protecting the planet from climate change – that means welcoming zero-carbon homes and recognising that new wind-farms will be needed.’ He clearly missed the previous nights TV programme which totally destroyed the myths that the Government have built up about global warming being caused by CO2 emissions. We cannot PROTECT the planet from climate change, climate change is happening and has always happened. We have to learn to adapt to it, just as our ancetors did. The Romans grew vines as far north as Northumbria, in the Middle Ages the soil was frozen for much of the winter. Farmers have always adapted, they always will. All this tosh about zero emissions and wind farms distracts from the main aim of adapting to climate change, not
    trying to be like King Canute and trying to stop it.

    16 March, 2007 at 5:18 pm

  6. The DTI tell us that, “There are currently around 1,769 wind turbines in operation at 137 sites in the UK with a total installed capacity of 2034.85 megawatts (source: BWEA, 1 March 2007). In total, these turbines currently provide just over 0.3 per cent of the UK’s electricity supply, enough to supply around 400,000 households.”
    “Generating 10 per cent of UK electricity from renewables by 2010 could mean an increase by around another one and half times the current number.”
    In March 2005, with 1,200 turbines, the DTI/BWEA were telling us that, “Generating 10 per cent of UK electricity from renewables by 2010 could mean an increase by around another one and half times the current number.”
    Meanwhile, George Monbiot (not a raving, right wing climate change denier) calculates: “The Whinash project, [25 x 2.5MW turbines in a high wind capacity area] … will reduce carbon dioxide emission by 178,000 tonnes a year. This is impressive, until you discover that a single jumbo jet, flying from London to Miami and back every day, releases the climate-change equivalent of 520,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. One daily connection between Britain and Florida costs three giant wind farms.
    The Government envisages a rise in British aircraft passengers from 180 million to 476 million over the next 25 years. That means a contribution to global warming that is equivalent to the carbon savings of 1,094 Whinash farms.”

    David Miliband was quoted in the Newcastle Journal as saying, “Anyone who says they believe in renewable energy, but not about wind farms [sic], needs to be exposed for their hypocrisy.”

    I stand exposed, David. And, while you preach about wind turbines, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are quietly forging ahead with plans for a nuclear new build and ‘clean coal’ power stations. Hypocrisy?

    16 March, 2007 at 6:44 pm

  7. Simon Aitkens

    Mr Miliband,

    I welcome your plans to make farming a ‘net environmental contributor’ – however, I’d like you to elaborate on the details of how this will be done. In particular, you mention that less productive farmland should be re-wilded. But what counts as less productive farmland? Even if the soil in some areas is less suitable for certain types of production, if farms produce food locally, how would this be factored into the equation? The carbon savings made by not shipping food around the country have to be taken into account.

    Simon Aitkens

    18 March, 2007 at 1:28 pm

  8. Derek Reynolds

    David and his Belts of many colours. I fancy they will be the same colour in 80 years time as they are today, with or without Mr Miliband. Lots of fine talk about environment, and carbon neutral desires, but where is the plan, just what are individuals expected to do to create this brave new world? Switch off the freezer? Give up the car? Put a windmill on the roof? Will there be any ‘turquoise belts’ left after DEFRA cuts yet more funding? Will farmers get their Payments for 2005? War on Waste would be a better theme, and war on excessive government expenditure for starters. Farming for the environment? Just what is that if it’s not another unsightly, unwanted, inefficient in terms of cost per megawatt, wind farm.

    Cover Britain in woodland ‘carbon sinks’, close all fossil fuel burning premises, ground all aircraft, stop all traffic, and the world’s climate would not notice now, nor in a hundred years. We are mortal beings, we are not Gods, ‘we’ cannot change the planets climate globally. This play on carbon emissions is a farce of Whitehall proportions designed to restrict and tax, and is currently plaguing the policy makers of the world. Policies are chosen, then the evidence to support them sought. Scientists providing the most Green Stamps win prizes, if a truth does not suit, then it is denounced and denied. A better understanding of planetary events over millions of years will yield the realisation that preaching and executing ‘save the planet’ plans will do no less than commit hari-kari for mankind, and the third world peoples would be the first to suffer, whilst our path through the cosmos continues unaltered, unabated, uninterested in mankind’s puny political policy meanderings.

    Far more constructive plans would be to educate conservation of basic commodities and fuels, construct energy efficient homes and work places, build things to last more than a season or two, create a quality and a pride in community life within which all services are available, instead of restricting and strangling small business with directives and regulations to satisfy those beyond our waters who seek power and financial gain to use as they wish. Create awareness of the advantages of climate change, do not preach the impending disaster it might bring if we do not wash our socks this minute.

    This is no vision for the future. This is a play on words that suits a political scenario, and in which accolades and advancement are sought for the benefit of the author.

    18 March, 2007 at 8:17 pm

  9. May I draw attention to a letter from Lilli Matson,then Head of Transport and Natural Resources, Council for the Protection of Rural England, published in The Times on 19/01/99

    “Your article of January 9 paints a sorry of wind development in the UK. This is a tale which is not so much about landscape preservationists triumphing over green-energy developers as about the failure of successive governments to deliver effective policies to expand renewable energy.
    Ever since the introduction of financial subsidies for renewables in 1990, CPRE has highlighted the conflicts inherent in a system where subsidies are awarded to the cheapest projects with no reference made to their environmental impacts. This has led developers to focus on the very windiest sites, which frequently coincide with our best upland landscapes. Financial contracts have been given to projects in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and surrounding our National Parks. No wonder people cry out in defence of the landscape.
    The solution does not lie in weakening planning protection for the countryside, but in improving the way in which we fund renewable energy.*
    This should ensure that environmentally damaging schemes are ruled out from the start and encourage a wider range of renewable technologies to be developed. The result would be less controversy over the location of renewable energy projects and more support for their growth.”

    The Government still does not seem to realise that Renewables are not just wind and any subsidy, even a ‘hidden’ one i.e. the Renewables Obligation,(RO) must be explained to the consumer who pays for it. The RO replaced the NFFO bidding system then in place*.

    A selected abstract from Windpower Monthly February 2007) follows.

    ”Market uncertainty in Britain as energy regulator advocates scrapping Renewables Obligation
    Britain’s energy regulator, Ofgem, is calling for abolishment of the troubled Renewables Obligation (RO) and a switch to a mechanism the wind industry says could be a major step backwards. According to Ofgem, there are cheaper, simpler and more effective ways of reducing emissions and promoting renewable energy than the RO. Yet the wind industry is calling for more funds to be allocated to the beleaguered scheme”.

    Don Brownlow has pointed out the David Miliband was quoted in the Newcastle Journal as saying, “Anyone who says they believe in renewable energy, but not about wind farms, needs to be exposed for their hypocrisy.”
    Any hypocrisy must lie in making decisions from biased arguments .Educated decisions can only be made by balancing benefits and dis-benefits for any proposal. That is why at official meetings where we are now being told there are no dis-benefits from wind and we must move forward with it is not acceptable. The North East Rural Conference 08/03/07 it was stated there were to be no negative comments. Good planning relies on balance.

    The Jan /Feb2007 issue of rural focus claims that PM Brown would abolish Defra and make it a more powerful Department of Environment and Energy, abolishing DTI altogether. It states that David Miliband is likely to lead the expanded department. As well as leading the fight against climate change he would be in charge of plans to build a generation of nuclear power stations and boost renewable sources such as wind, wave and solar power.

    We,Durham CPRE ,support renewable energy but NOT windfarms near to houses and affecting people’s quality of life. This is not hypocrisy but plain common sense.

    24 March, 2007 at 10:52 pm

  10. Three points on all this.
    1. Those who disagree with the emphasis Miliband put on climate change should read the Stern Review – the first chapter is enough. That review does two things. First, it demonstrates that there is a sufficient consensus within the scientific community that climate change is happening and that its impacts will be severe – very severe, unless mitigation and adaptation measures are put in place. What it also does is demonstrate how much is NOT known. If ever there was a case for invoking the precautionary principle, this is it. (For any readers not familiar with the precautionary principle, it can be summed up as: “don’t hang about waiting for a scientific certainty that may never come – if sufficient science indicates a risk, act to counter it”.)

    2. In an otherwise thoughtful and encouraging speech, it was disappointing that the Secretary of State responsible for landscape could not have been a bit more equivocal about wind turbines. There is genuine concern about them, perhaps more widespread than Whitehall is alert to. The best place for turbines is the sea, where the availability of wind is more certain than on much of our land (I know most of the yotties hate them, but – as a yottie myself – I prefer to see them as yet another of the challenges navigating at sea throws up). The London Array is a very sensible decision, and shows that concern about capital costs is not a show-stopper.

    3. Finally, what struck me most about the Secretary of State’s speech was a lack of urgency. The word “debate” flowed freely from most of the speakers, but we really ought to be setting ourselves timescales – and tight ones at that – within which to take decisions. Decisions about land use will have direct impacts on our response to climate change, and – see point 1 – the clock is ticking. Yes, we need to ensure those decisions are well-informed; but the Home Office isn’t slow off the mark when personal and institutional security is at stake – and the Miliband challenge that environmental security is also a major threat is surely equally pressing?

    27 March, 2007 at 7:03 pm

  11. Gerry Moore

    I’ve just read Clive Bates’ blog entry on land use strategy and I agree with most of what he says, but there are a few points I’d like to question:

    Firstly, the land designation system, although static, will not need to become that much more flexible in the future. Although climate change will undoubtedly change the landscape, AONBs are unlikely to become ugly anytime soon, National Parks will still need to be maintained, and Green Belts will continue to provide an effective means to constrain urban sprawl.

    Secondly, on the question of expanding housing in rural areas, whilst I agree that there is a danger that those already living in the countryside unfairly use the planning system to exclude urban dwellers, there is a parallel danger of people who live in cities and move into rural areas wanting to maintain their urban lifestyles. Often these people commute to the city for both work and socialising – by doing this, they undermine both the economic (because they contribute relatively little to the local economy) and social (because they are less involved in local life) bases of a sustainable countryside. And of course, by building new houses on greenfield land, they often undermine the environmental basis of a sustainable countryside, not to mention car use…

    The point is not that rural areas should be blocked off from new development – this would be unfair and isn’t going to happen given the context of a rising population – but some participants in the debate over increased rural housing don’t realise that “what people want” (to quote the Policy Exchange) is often at best unsustainable and at worst flatly contradictory. Moving to a rural area should involve making a trade-off between those benefits that urban life provides and those benefits that rural life provides. Moving to a sustainable model of land use involves similar trade-offs. Politicians much prefer to focus on so-called win-win solutions, but sometimes not everyone can get what they want.

    27 March, 2007 at 8:50 pm

  12. Andy Yuille

    I’d like to make three points.

    First, in response to those bloggers denying the existence of climate change or the need to / sense in trying to tackle it – where’ve you been for the past 20 years? This has been a long debate and the balance of scientific evidence now points overwhelmingly to climate change happening as a result of human activity, and to our ability to, for a very limited period into the future, have some chance of preventing its further acceleration. Mr Miliband and this government are quite right to finally have this as a priority.

    Second, in response to Mr Miliband’s first two points about “getting there”, re valuing environmental assets, respecting environmental limits and taking a more positive approach to land – absolutely! And one way of doing that is by foregrounding consideration of environmental capacity in the planning system.

    The environment has the capacity to provide us with a range of benefits and services – clean air, freesh water, stable climate, tranquil places, diverse and attractive landscapes, etc. If the environment is seen as an active provider of benefits, rather than a passive receiver of development, then this provides us with a new context in which to consider plans for development.

    If we frame the question in terms of the capacity of the environment to accommodate development, we will tend towards the conclusion that “we’re full up” – that there is no capacity for more development here, wherever here is. But analysis of environmental capacity to provide the benefits on which we rely, can be used to help guide and prioritise the location, scale, type and form of new development. It should be used to drive innovation and creative responses to policy drviers such as need for increased GVA, more jobs, more homes, etc. And it would enable us to compare more directly the benefits of different modes of development that would have differential environmental impacts (or even the benefits of not developing particular places).

    The point (well, one of the points) of trying to consider environmental capacity issues up front is to get away from the model of environment vs development. No-one really has the policy objective of building roads, factories, business parks or housing estates – these are just means to ends. The objectives are to deliver connectivity, economic growth, decent homes, etc. Considering how to deliver these objectives in the context of information about the different aspects of environmental capacity, before deciding on how they should be delivered, should break, or at least weaken the perceived tension between development and environment.

    We need to aim towards a situation where we can say: these are the benefits we get from the environment (and that we want to continue getting), these are our policy objectives (increased GVA, reduced unemployment, etc) – so how can we achieve the latter in the light of the former? Rather than the current situation, which is more along the lines of: these are our objectives, this is how we’re going to achieve them, that will have xyz impacts on the environment, how can we mitigate that? This foregrounds environmental capacity as a driver, rather than slotting it in as a constraint later on in the process.

    A series of well-sited and designed earth-sheltered industrial units could actually contribute positively to most aspects of environmental capacity as well as to GVA, employment growth, etc…

    And now I’ve blogged too long, so the third point will have to wait…

    28 March, 2007 at 10:04 am

  13. Tom McDonald

    So what about the future?

    The Secretary of State has indicated that the demands on the countryside are not about food security; rather the challenges are increasingly linked to environmental security, calling for global solutions. I can go along with the thrust of that but with the caveat that in this increasingly volatile world it is a dangerous presumption to lose our capability to feed ourselves. Over the last 200 years, this country was vulnerable to severe food shortages during the Napoleonic Wars, and the first and second world wars. We do need to learn from history. Our farming community has an increasingly important role to play in the light of concerns about climate change, globalisation, and disruption to fuel and energy supplies. Our farmers need our support.

    Of course, things have changed. There is a wider debate on the importance of the countryside to our future security. To me, that calls above all for a return of confidence in a planning system gives people a real chance to influence change for the better.

    Good land use planning is the unsung hero of environmental protection and the promotion of urban regeneration.

    I welcome the Secretary of State’s keynote speech overall.

    Tom McDonald

    28 March, 2007 at 1:09 pm

  14. Dominic Coupe, Chairman CPRE Northumberland

    The Minister’s speech is generally welcome.

    I’m less certain about the plug for wind-farms. There’s a growing view that they’re of very limited use, as others have commented.

    I’m very keen on the idea of putting more green into green belts; they have a serious role to play – they stop our cities conjoining. For this reason alone, they demand our renewed protection and support.

    28 March, 2007 at 2:59 pm

  15. Chris Wiltsher

    Chris Wiltsher, volunteer, CPRE NE region

    I am glad to see that the talk was entitled ‘A Vision for the Land’. ‘Countryside’ is one way of viewing some of the land, and we must recognise the baggage attached to the word. The countryside is a living environment, constantly changing, and we cannot control all the changes. Land is a resource, in urban and non-urban environments, which for centuries has been used for different purposes. Land is a limited resource, and some of the uses may have irreversible effects – this applies to flooding valleys for reservoirs, covering fields with houses and roads and railways and airports, or creating biodiversity sanctuaries. The key question is how we manage this resource in the face of the competing interests that the minister notes. I suggest that the management objective should be health: health of the environment, which means managing the land sustainably; health of the economy, which means managing the land so that we get long-term economic benefit; health of people, which means things like preserving tranquil spaces in many locations and limiting as far as possible the adverse effects of change.

    The only management tool we have is the land-use planning system. This has become skewed to an adversarial system that pits ‘developers’ against ‘preservers’in a battle of relatively narrow interests. Can we develop a planning system that is flexible and responsive and allows competing interests to be discussed in an open way and balances to be struck? Competing interests are not necessarily incompatible: for example encouraging local food production could contribute to reducing ‘food miles’ and so reducing the carbon footprint, while at the same time promoting economic use of land, creating jobs, enhancing local communities and enabling people to afford local housing, improving health through better diet, and giving urban dwellers something to see when they visit ‘the countryside’ as tourists.

    I am sorry to see the emphasis on wind farms in this discussion; surely we need to look at energy conservation and at other sources of renewable energy if we are serious about climate change – and both these need a lead and serious investment at a national level.

    Chris Wiltsher

    29 March, 2007 at 9:59 am

  16. Peter Chillingworth

    I found myself broadly in agreement with David Miliband’s 5 land use points. I believe strongly that we must ensure our farmers can continue to provide healthy, environmentally friendly food and that our best farmland is protected for the long term for that purpose. Encouragement should be given for less ‘good’ land to be used for other beneficial uses and his suggestions are in line with that, particularly woodland, water storage and turquoise belts.

    Although I applaud the governments belated move towards a carbon-neutral economy, I do not believe that the wholesale construction of wind farms is the answer. It is part of the answer, but we must not ruin our best and most tranquil areas by ignoring the alternatives, with nuclear power being the most important.

    David’s desire to see the greening of the Green Belt is good. Too often our urban fringes are degraded by vandalism on farmland, rubbish dumping, poorly managed horsiculture, unauthorised development, badly restored mineral/waste sites, etc. Properly managed landuse with open spaces, trees and leisure must be encouraged.

    29 March, 2007 at 10:32 am

  17. Looking for balance as always I decided to read David Miliband’s ministerial blog. The following extract fits well with his speech to CPRE.

    “This blog is my attempt to help bridge the gap – the growing and potentially dangerous gap – between politicians and the public. It will show what I’m doing, what I’m thinking about, and what I’ve read, heard or seen for myself which has sparked interest or influenced my ideas.”

    “Where the countryside is neglected it always takes its revenge. Unless county and town march together in reciprocal activity, civilisation will limp on one foot.” quotation from Aneurin Bevan (In Place of Fear, chapter three) as posted by David Miliband on 22 Mar 07.

    The above quotation fits well with CPRE vision:

    “CPRE promotes the beauty, tranquillity and diversity of Rural England by encouraging the sustainable use of land and other natural resources in town and country”.

    As for wind power stations they will remain the most visually polluting of all renewable sources and so their location is all important Cumulative Impact is causing concern and nowhere more than in Co Durham. Alison Hill (BWEA) told me last year they were seemingly unable to encourage government to provide more support for offshore This may be changing and if so will surely help reduce the increasing number of onshore applications, many so close to residents that they will affect their quality of life

    Overall David Miliband did appear to have the countryside and CPRE issues at heart

    Further Issues relating to what he termed, dreaded wind farms, are best discussed on his Ministerial Blog. We have always put energy conservation, all renewables and reducing the need to travel, where possible, at the heart of our suggestions to combat climate change

    30 March, 2007 at 8:39 pm

  18. Caroline Dibden

    It is clear (at least I hope it is the case) that most politicians, including Mr Miliband, have our best interests at heart. It is easy to issue statements that are easy to support, and easy to say. However, the proof is really on the ground. The recent past has seen a huge increase (at least in the SE) of housebuilding, along with all the associated roads and infrastructure that goes with it. The next SE Plan, about to be finalised after a long examination in public, will determine our future for 20 years. Under any option, the result is still a massive increase in concreted land over the current situation. And this is to fuel the Government’s ideal of the SE being one of the top ten economic powerhouses in Europe. Does this really equate with either an improvement in our quality of life, or with the Governments supposed “Green” credentials. Seeing that the massive increase in Southampton’s housing requiremnts is almost totally fueled by the new polish community, I do wonder where our priorities should and do lie. Would’t it be better in any instance to look at regenerating the city centres rather than planning new towns in the rural hinterland (as currently proposed).

    30 March, 2007 at 10:32 pm

  19. Peter Langley

    David Miliband’s thoughtful and wide-ranging speech raises some extremely important issues for the future of the countryside and the environment as a whole. Too often in the past, environmental issues have been treated as secondary to the need for development and growth. Once the development strategy is decided, planners turn their attention (too late) to mitigating the environmental impact of those decisions. In doing so they suffer from insufficient resources and lack of leadership. The result is that many good intentions founder and well-meaning environmental policies come to very little.

    David Miliband points the way to a much more effective approach in which environmental concerns (not least climate change) are fully integrated into decision-making from the start, and a positive attempt to improve the environment replaces the environmental defensiveness we often see now.

    This radical change in the planner’s mind-set will not happen unless the Government itself takes the lead. First, Mr Miliband must convince cabinet colleagues that the environment matters and is worth fighting for. Second, the Government must show by its words and deeds that it is serious. The ‘housing growth at all costs’ message of the new PPS3 must be tempered by environmental realism; transport policies (including those on aviation) must give more weight to long-term environmental sustainability than to satisfying short-term travel demand; and energy policy should strike a balance that respects a wide range of environmental concerns (including landscape and tranquillity) in addition to climate change.

    I am particularly enthused by the idea of positive environmental improvement, such as ‘putting the green back into the green belt’. We must move away from the idea of green belts as sterile buffers against development towards a much more proactive approach in which every green belt has its environmental improvement strategy. This will require a pot of money (quite modest in comparison with what is available for infrastructure and other development-related investment) and a lead organisation dedicated to the task. The seeds of this approach already exist with the work of Groundwork and (in the West Midlands) the ‘Green Arc’ initiative. Now the Government needs to pick this ball up and run with it.

    1 April, 2007 at 4:02 pm

  20. Jo Shockley

    I found David Milliband’s speech fascinating as a web of interrelated threads, but there were a few key questions that I would like to highlight and explore.

    The focus on urban renaissance as key to sustainable land use by prioritising development on previously developed land was very welcome indeed. I was also interested in the idea that some land, particularly green belt, could become ‘greener’ if allowed to be rewilded and that this land would contribute to sustainability as a carbon sink. Much as I want to protect the countryside, it is probably worth pointing out that optimal rates of carbon sequestration take place not under the relatively slow growth of semi-natural vegetation, but under coppice and grassland. The aspiration was welcome even if the scientific argument was less well developed. However, there are some issues that arise from land use and carbon sequestration that bear closer examination in the light of anticipated climate change impacts.

    Everyone must certainly applaud the aspiration to reduce the environmental footprint of farming and I hope that this will result in an increase in the level of support for sustainable, organic farming, although this was not specifically articulated in the speech. Priorities should include initiatives to reduce nitrate and phosphate leaching and the potential for contamination of precious water bodies and rivers in a country that is rapidly becoming a homogenous nitrate sensitive area. Climate change and extreme weather have the potential to exacerbate these already serious issues and these deserve urgent attention.

    It is probably worth considering that farmers will be best placed as net environmental contributors if the use of farmland minimises the carbon footprint of food distribution by reducing the food miles travelled. Local foods are vital components of sustainability and carbon emission reduction and it is essential that we produce for local markets and avoid over-reliance on imported food that is shipped or airfreighted in. Should we be looking to rewild land that that is close to centres of population, or would it be more sustainable to use that land to produce food for local markets? Should we not be increasing the proportion of land under cultivation near our towns to support local foods? I did not feel that there was a sense of urgency about climate change and carbon emissions in this section of the speech, nor that policies that link land use and climate change were well developed and joined up.

    One of the likely impacts of global climate change is that agriculture in southerly latitudes will become increasingly difficult due to drought, soil erosion from flash floods leading to nutrient depletion, increased nitrate runoff and volatilization and the uncertainty of extreme weather. This will result in an increased reliance on land in more northerly latitudes, certainly for arable production. This country is likely to see increased demand for food to address the inevitable shortfall as southern land goes out of production. I hoped that this speech would have contained proposals to nurture and support farming in this country to maximise the sustainable production of local, and preferably organic, food and reduce our reliance on international food distribution networks. I also hoped for proposals to deal with the potential for expansion once climate change begins to impact in Europe. Surely if anywhere is to be rewilded it should be land that cannot be used for food production.

    Climate change will bring threats and opportunities – the threat of food shortages as land becomes uproductive in the south, and opportunties for this country to increase sustainable production. Surely it should be a national priority to plan for adaptation by growing a profitable and sustainable agricultural sector with the skills and infrastructure to react to change. I wish I felt that we really have thought that far ahead but in reality the speech gave the impression that there was much to be thought out and joined up and that there was remarkably little time in which to do this.

    3 April, 2007 at 2:24 pm

  21. Jacquetta Fewster

    I was very pleased to see the strong link made between a quality green space and quality of life in David Miliband’s speech. Back in 1999, the government announced it would be creating two new national parks in England and giving excellent protection to these special green spaces as a present for the nation. It’s wonderful that the New Forest has been given this protection, but the South Downs is lagging behind. Every day threats to the beauty and tranquility of this special area are raising their heads. National park status for the South Downs is urgently needed and I would like to see the government redoubling its efforts to make this happen as soon as possible.

    4 April, 2007 at 8:32 am

  22. Christopher Napier

    Vice Chairman of national CPRE and Chairman of Hampshire CPRE

    These are personal views, and not the views of CPRE

    I found David Milliband’s speech interesting and thought provoking. It is good to see a senior government minister engaging with a long-term vision for the use of land. Many good points are made in the speech, and I am sure CPRE will draw on these in formulating its own vision for the countryside, on which work has started.

    It is true that preservation of the status quo is not an option. Yet whatever change is to come must preserve the essential characteristics of our landscape, its diversity, sense of place, and the tranquillity it brings. This, I believe, is recognised in the speech, and that is very welcome.

    It is absolutely right that we must avoid a salami-slicing approach to land use where marginal decisions erode our environmental assets. I fear, however, that we are not avoiding it at the moment, and suggested changes to the planning system might make things worse. So, the question is, how do we build into the planning system a true assessment of cumulative impact of housing, infrastructure and so on, and then decide what the limits are? This cannot be achieved, as I see it, so long as economic goals are given priority over environmental ones, as is the case at present, especially in the South East. The way ahead is true integration of economic and environmental goals, and social ones, rather than trade off or balancing and, yes, a new vision is crucial to achieving that. But if that vision is to drive forward the integration we need, it cannot be a vision driven essentially by economic growth and criteria, and even less can it be merely a method for justifying breach of the limits we now have – national parks, AONBs, Green Belts and so on.

    Improving the economic and environmental value of agricultural land in the ways suggested is a positive vision, and proactive enhancement something much to be supported, as long as we do not allow visions of enhancement to push aside the economic, environmental and spiritual value that agricultural land already has.

    There is great danger of doing this where climate change is concerned. Climate change is important, but it is probably in the urban areas, homes and behavioural change, as well as nuclear power, that we will see the greatest impacts. This seems to be recognised in the speech. So, it would be wrong to do things in the countryside that diminish its environmental value for limited returns in terms in reducing emissions, such as onshore wind generating stations in the wrong places. Measures taken to reduce emissions need to be “with the grain” in terms of wider environmental sustainability, resource use management and the values of society established over the years.

    There are many good things in the speech, which we as CPRE must consider carefully and develop. Yet, unsurprisingly in the context of such challenging ideas, there are areas of suggested change that demand a degree of caution, which I hope CPRE will have the opportunity to discuss on an ongoing basis with David Milliband and his colleagues.

    4 April, 2007 at 11:42 am

  23. Val Dunmore

    Whilst I have never supported the idea that we are responsible for climate change, it has been happening since the world began, the good thing that is coming out of this propaganda is awareness of pollution and environmental degradation which is something we can do something about.

    Wind farms are just about the ugliest and most unsatisfactory method of producing power, vide West Wales. I understand it takes many years to pay for the structures before any benefits are available. Travelling through the Baltic I saw many examples of acres of these monstrosities the majority of which were hardly moving.

    Sadly we have done very little since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 which said we were “on the road to tragedy”. We have also ignored the UN forecast The Fraying Web of Life published in 2000 which stated that “unless adult society changes its course the earth will be a wasteland in 75 years”. We seem to have already wasted 7 of those.

    4 April, 2007 at 2:34 pm

  24. Les Lane

    The first point. It is very interesting to listen to other peoples views on what they want the countryside to be. In many instances they don’t make their living from the countryside. In some instances they don’t even live in the countryside and expect it to be a free theme park for them to visit whenever they wish. Those of us who live and work in the countryside are usually the silent majority. We have an opinion but it’s usually drowned out by the minority. When are the decision makers going to listen to the people that it affects the most.
    The second point. To recycle products as a means of saving precious resources is a good thing. When are we going acknowledge that the “carbon dioxide” global warming scam,when linked to recycling, in many instances causes a bigger carbon dioxide footprint than it saves.

    4 April, 2007 at 3:23 pm

  25. R. Derrick

    Fine words, but how much of it will actually come true? Having been born and raised in rural Somerset, I’ve seen the county split in half and the upper part concreted to death with huge sprawls of housing, new estates tacked onto the edges of pretty villages and now the threat of massive airport expansion. Huh…..so much for reducing Co2 levels!
    We have a government that tries to convince people that all these changes are for the good, but all I see is a country being invaded by foreign business-people buying up our assets and immigrants pushing up the demand for housing and resources. We stupidly encourage the import of food….what is wrong with our own? Its just down to people’s obsession with the “exotic”, rather than good old British fare. Perfectly good farming land is being lost to housing development; even allotments and large gardens are not safe any more. And as for housing, why do we need so much of it, when thousands of properties all over the UK lie derelict and unwanted? Where are all the people coming from, to purchase these places? They can’t all be immigrants…they’re on low wages! And, with an ageing population predicted, won’t there thus be a glut of houses in the next 70-100 years?
    Wind farms have limited potential. They’re too big, too ugly, and entirely unsuitable for large-scale power needs. A few small ones may suit well enough where communities are isolated, but that’s about all. Some countries have abandoned their use altogether, so why are we starting it up?
    Overall, these supposed well-thought-out, “carefully considered” strategies for the future are just excuses for someone/some company to get a foothold in the countryside and develop it, either with leisure centres, housing, airports or something else with “rural economic benefits” in mind. Personally, I’ve yet to see any benefits, other than 24 hour traffic congestion and a huge hike in council tax.

    4 April, 2007 at 5:02 pm

  26. Chris Green

    A determined approach to environmental clean up is an absolute, measures are going in to aid this but clearly all must play their part.
    However there in one crucial problem that faces Britain, in particular England. It’s the Human impact, our country is over populated. This is the cause the problems we face today, from polution to preserving the environment, nature and quality of life.
    capping the population as is done on other islands will greatly improve our lot. Urban and Rural will be looked after as a result, Nature will thrive.


    4 April, 2007 at 5:37 pm

  27. Tom Oliver

    It makes a very refreshing change to hear a Cabinet Minister giving serious attention and thought to the future of the landscape and the countryside. In some ways David Miliband is in a particularly important place to do this, as there is a proud part of the Labour Party’s tradition that understands the profound importance to people of uplifting, beautiful, intricate and distinctive surroundings. And the less we should travel for the sake of the climate, the more important the landscapes of England, both remote and near at hand, will become.

    It is so sad and so unnecessary, then, that the advent of a real commitment to deal with climate change, which God knows is late enough, but which Mr Miliband is spearheading, should signal real threats to this same landscape from onshore wind power, with all its likely attendant savaging of landscape, tranquillity and countryside character. Mr Miliband quite rightly grasps that we need nothing short of a green industrial revolution; but he appears to wish to visit the sledgehammer of industrial landscapes on our remaining remote, rural and tranquil landsapes, which Labour protected so effectively in the 1947 and 1949 Acts.

    This would be a crying shame, for future generations of people, who will rarely be able to avoid the restless sight, attendant drainage, road construction, transmission infrastructure and disturbing noise of wind power stations imposed on marshes, hills and moors. And it would also be shameful of any Government to do that kind of damage to places so cherished by so many and so well protected hitherto.

    Green living will have to be for ever; we will have to live with what we do in a hurry now, for generations to come. The arguments for despoiling the English landscape for so little gain in terms of carbon reduction are little short of a scandal, made by a hard core of people who seem to have forgotten that we should save the planet because it is an inestimably beautiful place, hugely loved by and significant to people as well as the rest of the natural world.

    The prospect of imposing the industrial scale and inescapable presence of large scale turbines is the modern equivalent of the coal, iron and cotton masters of 150 years ago laying waste the Black Country, large parts of Lancashire, South and West Yorkshire and that part of the Midlands now slowly recovering thanks to the National Forest. That 19th century environmental, aesthetic and social disaster was an act of power over the people not power for the people. God forbid that we should be entering another phase of the same thing when we have known better for 60 years, thanks to the Labour Party’s enlightened and inpsiring work from the 1940s and including the CRoW Act of 2000.

    It would be immensely heartening if it were possible to engage seriously with the Government on how to deal with the emergence and widespread use of renewable energy, without the mournful prospect of turning England’s countryside into a flickering dynamo. Let’s do this before it’s too late and in the process honour the importance of landscape which Mr Miliband did in his speech.

    4 April, 2007 at 6:35 pm

  28. Carol Oliver

    Firstly, I applaud David Milliband’s suggestions – there are few, if any, I disagree with… I just hope it’s not empty rhetoric.

    Farming: What environmental goods do we want to subsidise?
    I would like to see set-aside put to growing energy crops, preferably ones which seek to replace our reliance on oil-based fuels, e.g. for transport. I think we will be forced to give up oil very soon, either for political reasons, i.e. hostile suppliers, for dwindling supplies, or to reduce our CO2 emissions.
    I would also prefer to see organic and extensive farming, e.g. free-range eggs etc. subsidised over intensive (factory) farming methods.

    Energy: I would like to see, in addition to more fuel-crops being grown to enable better self-sufficiency in fuel, an increase in micro-energy, i.e. individual dwellings being able to have solar panels, small wind turbines or micro-hydro etc.

    Wind-farms: There is a lot of fuss being made about wind-farms purely on the basis of aesthetics. I find this absurd on two counts, the first being of course that aesthetics are a matter of opinion – what one finds beautiful, another may find ugly. When it comes to reducing CO2 emissions I think aesthetics have no place to play. Since when has a traditional power station been thought of as attractive? Climate change will wreak more havoc on our areas of natural beauty than wind turbines! Britain has the best wind resource in Europe, possibly even most of the world, so it makes sense to utilise it. On the other hand, our solar resource is, most years, pretty abysmal.
    It also mustn’t be forgotten that grazing-type farming can continue as normal around wind turbines, the only area lost is that of the turbine bases (and an access track which the farmer may well find beneficial).

    Planning: I think that the more planning decisions are made locally rather than nationally the better. I support the recently proposed Sustainable Communities Bill which seeks to devolve planning decisions from Government to Local Authorities. I acknowledge that sometimes this does not always work out for the best, but in most cases it should.

    4 April, 2007 at 11:26 pm

  29. Keith Braithwaite

    Whilst I am encouraged by much of what David Miliband has said, allowing for the usual unreliability of politicians’ promises, there are two points that I find perplexing.

    Firstly, why was there only a half-hearted attempt in the Budget to address the energy question through improving the self-suffiency of houses and factories using solar heating and other available technology, such as electricity producing boilers? A serious focus on this aspect would likely reduce the need for wind farms and probably nuclear energy.

    Secondly, whatever happened to regional assistance? The pressure of development is in the south east and east, as has already been mentioned, where, for example, the supply of water is least. Why is there no attempt to encourage employment and so people to the relatively depressed communities elsewhere in the country? This would open up more brownfield sites and relieve the south east and east from the unsustainable development presently proposed and facilitate an even spread of pressure.

    Perhaps these points will be considered naive, but then maybe a simpler approach is needed.

    5 April, 2007 at 12:18 am

  30. I refer to my earlier comment:
    Further issues relating to what he termed ‘dreaded’wind farms are best discussed on his Ministerial Blog.However reading it I was amazed to find the following;


    Why are more wind farms rejected in the U.K by local councils than are approved and why do so many have to go to appeal before they can start being built?

    David replies: Good question. The short answer is that the planning system allows people to object. My view is that wind turbines actually look nice and need to play a big part in raising our renewable electricity supply to 20% of the total.

    My commnent “Good Planning is about balancing benefits and dis-benefits of any application. It is about allowing developers to develop and objectors to object.”

    COMMENT BY CHRIS(a) and CAROL (b) on this blog
    (a)I am sorry to see the emphasis on wind farms in this discussion

    My comment. This is inevitable given all the coverage to the claimed contribution of wind farms in saving CO2 emissions to combat global warming, OFGEM website has official figures which show they are not performing as expected in the North East.

    (b)Wind-farms: There is a lot of fuss being made about wind-farms purely on the basis of aesthetics. I find this absurd on two counts, the first being of course that aesthetics are a matter of opinion – When it comes to reducing CO2 emissions I think aesthetics have no place to play.

    My comment.The ‘fuss’is NOT purely on the basis of aesthetics. Reading the Inspector’s reports on Public Inquiries show this. The recent lauded tranquillity report by CPRE shows the importance of tranquillity allowing us to escape the noise and stress of our cities, towns and suburbs, to be inspired and to get refreshed. Wind farms do affect tranquillity as do many other situations.

    I have read and adnired David Miliband’s comment suggesting that he needs to learn more about farming issues. I hope he will also look further into the planning issues whilst remembering Margaret Beckett assured us during the Barningham Campaign,(fought as a landscape protection issue)that the Government was committed to protecting the landscape against inappropriate wind energy developments.

    Any vision for the future of our land should be cross party.

    7 April, 2007 at 9:14 pm

  31. A J Harries

    We live, apparently in a ‘green and pleasant land’.
    Well it seems to me that as we are fast ripping up the green then it won’t therefore remain pleasant for long.
    I can’t believe the number of building developments going on, not only in my local area but wherever I travel.
    The property developers are rubbing their hands with glee as they are allowed to knock down old, well built buildings to cram in more cardboard quality, non-aesthetic ‘homes’. This alters the local fabric of communities’ heritage.
    Then there are the roads that are ‘required’ to support the community infrastructure.
    If the government were serious about the environment as they purport by increasing ‘green’ taxes, how can they sustain the argument for building more roads.
    Stop building roads and the frustration of traffic queuing will do the job itself (IF the taxes raised are put directly into public transport).
    More roads and bypasses mean MORE cars. It’s pandering to the motorist whilst contradicting policy AND raising their taxes.
    I am a driver myself and am prepared to queue in traffic or use other means to get around. I don’t want to trade my right as a motorist to lose ANY more green spaces.
    The unbelievable fact is that the Last Conservative government’s road building plan was not scrapped as Labour said but in fact increased-now some £13 billion.
    The plan to build bypasses through Areas of outstanding natural beauty and National Parks, such as the Peak district is a scandal.
    Why should the car win over the tranquillity of the countryside? We are already losing it, by yet more government stealth tactics. Put the freight on the railways-gives them more money to re-invest too.

    8 April, 2007 at 3:47 pm

  32. Brian Everett

    I find it pleasing and encouraging to note David Milliband’s sensitivity to the value of our countryside and landscape, and his preparedness to engage others in discussion on policies that will have the aim of protecting and enhancing this important national resource. As other respondents have done, I would urge some caution on the scale and visual impact of on-shore wind turbines; and, in particular, I hope that he has taken full account of the efficiency and effectivness of this mode of power generation with regard to the variability of wind strength. I’m sure that we have all seen wind turbines with blades becalmed – how is power to be generated then?

    The pressure on our environment from projected population growth will be enormous: not just houses, but roads (not country lanes, motorways more like), factories, offices , schools , hospitals, shops, leisure amenities. The future for the south-east is grim given the government’s requirement for house-building. What future for tranquillity here? As one-third of the population increase is forecast to arise from net immigration it is time, I think, that the government was challenged on its mantra that it is necessary for the economy. It is clear that an influx of this size has environmental and social impacts that need to be considered alongside any econonic gain. It is true that we will have an ageing population, and that will affect the nation’s productive capacity and its ability to support its population. However, as England is currently the fourth most densely populated country in the world, I believe that we should exercise greater care in managing the size of our population. The Prime Minister stated, not so long ago, that the government has no policy in this area. It is time that this state of affairs is corrected, in a process of open and transparent discussion along the lines that David is proposing for the development of land use policy.

    8 April, 2007 at 7:48 pm

  33. Brian Everett

    Sorry. With reference to my earlier response I meant to say that the government calculates that forecast net immigration will be responsible for one third of required housebuilding – not population increase.

    8 April, 2007 at 8:23 pm

  34. Ken Green

    David Miliband said ‘You cannot be serious about protecting the countryside unless you are serious about protecting the planet from climate change – that means welcoming zero-carbon homes and recognising that new wind-farms will be needed.’
    A couple of comments
    1/ Lets have a truly sustainable growth plan. It seems to me that it is folly to concentrate growth in the crowded South East, to take chunks of green belt land in the process, and cause more congestion. Please consider giving far greater incentives to business moving to areas of deprivation and re-generating areas over existing urban areas throughout the whole country building houses within existing conurbations where there are homes close to jobs.
    2/ The government should immediately pass legislation specifying that all new building must have higher insulation levels and also have a minimum degree of local power generation :- solar, wind or geo-thermal etc.

    9 April, 2007 at 8:21 pm

  35. Chris Todd

    There is much to comment in David Miliband’s speech but one area I would have liked to see greater emphasis placed on is the value that is placed on our most precious landscapes. The current budgets for national park authorities in this country is miniscule compared to spending on many other areas – the total government spend is equivalent to less than £1 per person per year. Yet our countryside and in particular our national parks (and AONBs) cover a significant area of Britain and are incredibly important in defining our sense of place and who we are. This is aside from the important roles they play in protecting biodiversity, in providing quiet, outdoor recreation so important for our spiritual and physical well-being and in supporting local jobs and economies.

    Linked to this I would also like to ask what action DEFRA is taking to ensure that the Section 62 of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countyrside Act and Section 85 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 are properly taken on board by public and statutory bodies? All to often it would seem that these duties are largely ignored or if regard is had to them there is always a reason why something cannot be done or some damage has to be accomodated. National policy talks of protecting and enhancing National Parks and AONBs but the feeling of many countryside campaigners is that enhancement rarely gets acted upon, and discussion seems to end up more about minimising the detrimental impact. This is not going to safegaurd these landscapes for future generations, let alone undo some of the damage that has been wrought upon them over the past 50 – 100 years. Not that I am takling of pickling the countryside in aspic, but when you have eyesores still littering the countryside many years after they were first placed there and in some instances now serving no useful purpose, something is wrong with the system.

    Finally, in 1999, the Government announced it would like to see two new national parks in the New Forest and the South Downs. Today we are still waiting for the South Downs designation to be confirmed. In fact it is nearly 60 years to the day since Sir Arthur Hobhouse first recommened to Government that the South Downs become a national park. So why all the delay? The reasons for not designating the South Downs as a national park do not stand up to scrutiny and the reasons given in 1956 (the that the recreational quality of the South Downs had been lost due to ploughing for food production) have been shown, with hindsight, to be unfounded. With nearly 40 million visits a year, the South Downs is one of the most heavily visited landscapes in the country and is likely to be the most heavily visited national park when its designation is finally confirmed. This visitor pressure is likely to increase with the rising population in the South East and yet there is no body to properly tackle this issue.

    There has been much delay to the recent process due to a challenge to the New Forest National Park Confirmation Order but now that is resolved there is no reason for any further delay. I would urge David Miliband to ensure that if there has to be a re-opening of the public inquiry it needs to happen sooner rather than later and for a decision to be taken on the national park by the end of this year or at the very latest, the beginning of next.

    10 April, 2007 at 3:23 pm

  36. J D Farquhar

    I have read some of the responses to David Milliband’s speech with interest and was particularly struck with the response by Professor Susan Owens. She points out that although land is a resource – a factor of production in economists’ jargon – it is a peculiar one. As she says, it embodies multiple values which are represented inadequately, if at all, by market prices. She follows this up later saying that it is puzzling that the emphasis is now on making the planning system more responsive to market forces. Obviously if market prices fail to take all the multiple values into account they are an inadequate guide. In an earlier critique of Kate Barker I concentrated on the imperfections of the market for land, and here is another strand to add to that argument. I hope that CPRE will seek the opinions of other economists on this point, as I am sure that (except for a few who are in thrall to the Adam Smith Institute) they would support this line of attack, which destroys the whole basis for Kate Barker’s arguments.

    10 April, 2007 at 4:25 pm

  37. neil sinden

    At this late stage in the debate I simply wanted to emphasise the fundamental value of the planning system in helping us chart a course to more environmentally sustainable development. That we can entertain this kind of debate at all in the terms set out above is thanks to the progressive post-war Atlee Government’s decision to nationalise development rights and put in place a land use planning system the bones of which remain intact to this day. Through effective planning over the past 60 years we have been able to safeguard so much of the value of our land – in the broadest sense – in both the town and country. Yet, increasingly, politicians from across the political spectrum seem at best to overlook or at worst to deny the value of planning as a tool of public policy. Emerging proposals for planning reform are born of a flawed, short term economic analysis which leads to the kind of marginal decision-making and ‘salami-slicing’ approach referred to by David Miliband. His speech contains the seeds of a more enlightened approach to land use. This should underpin the Government’s forthcoming Planning White Paper which itself should herald the renaissance of planning as a powerful tool for securing the public interest in the the development and use of land.

    11 April, 2007 at 1:29 pm

  38. CPRE Policy Committee

    CPRE’s Policy Committee discussed David Miliband’s speech recently, and came up with a number of messages they wanted to convey:

    • Combating global warming requires a large amount of countryside that is green and productive, as well as being beautiful and tranquil;

    • There is currently no widely accepted view of what constitutes sustainable countryside. Although work has been done on sustainable forestry, sustainable agriculture, and other aspects of the sustainability of the countryside, no research has been done to draw these strands together. The Government should investigate further what constitutes a sustainable countryside;

    • Sustainability is interpreted many different ways across government and hence often serves more to obscure than to enlighten. Sustainability should be defined clearly or used consistently;

    • The countryside has an important role to play in delivering food security and long term sustainability. Emphasis should be put on stewardship of the environment; and

    • The ideal of multifunctional countryside needs to be balanced with maintenance of the countryside’s essential rural character.

    11 April, 2007 at 1:32 pm