The current UK agricultural subsidies system means big money for large scale land-holdings. Or at least for the time being, as the Agricultural Bill (see our newsletter from December 2018) is on track to become the most radical change to British farming since the UK joined the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). During the proposed time of subsidy withdrawal there will undoubtably be winners and losers. However, the proposed direct payments for land-owner’s to provide “public goods” also lays the groundwork for exciting opportunities for rewilding projects.
Rewilding is a land management approach by which conveniently managed land can revert to produce fully functioning ecosystems. Notable examples include Knepp Castle Estate and Wild Ennerdale – which have seen the return of nationally rare species, restored rivers and boosted the local economy. Rewilding has been hailed as the silver bullet for British conservation – providing everything from natural flood defences, to ecotourism revenue, and the reintroduction of lost species. A future post-Brexit era will most likely provide the catalyst needed for landowners to diversify their income with a rewilded landscape in mind.
But where can we find the best opportunities for future rewilding under the proposed new system? The answer is in the uplands. With farming collectives such as the North Flood Management Group whose current upland wetland and river restoration projects are already making sizeable impacts to river catchments basins across the North of England. However, opportunities can also be found in the lowlands, with farmers who wish to work in collectives such as the Farmer Cluster have the chance to produce landscape scale rewilding. This has been seen in the Martin Downs Farmer Cluster, whose combined efforts under the guidance of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme have seen the remarkable return of nationally rare species and increase biodiversity across the region.
It is easy to envision in a post subsidy era that the combined pull of future direct payments for environmental beneficial land-use practices and the push generated from the need for farmers and other land-holders to diversify their incomes will provide perfect conditions for future rewilding across Britain. Now is the time for conservationists, farmers and land owners to engage one another and to seriously consider and plan for the prospect of landscape based cooperative rewilding projects. The outcome of which would provide net benefits for not only wildlife and land owners but for us all.
Policies are constructs. Case law establishes what the wording of a policy means or implies.
For example: what is a valued landscape? How is this assessed and what kind of value does it relate to? Also how does green belt relate to openness? And what is the relevance of setting for heritage assets etc?
Landscapes do not have to be designated to be valued – a landscape may be valued by someone who likes to walk their dog in it. However, a valued landscape has to have attributes which make it out of the ordinary and be more than just somewhere you walk your dog. The ‘Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Assessment’ (Third Edition) describes the factors that establish landscape value in Box 5.1. This shows that it is not just landscape quality and condition but can also include other factors such as rarity and association. This can also include perceptual qualities such as tranquility and other experiential features. Value is commensurate with statutory designation, but a non-designated area can also be within a valued landscape.
Versus Green Belt Openness
A greenbelt’s purpose relates to its openness and permanence; the prevention of coalescence; and the preservation and enhancement of the landscape setting of historic towns. But openness is not defined. It does not relate to visibility, although it contains a visual element but rather the absence of development. Openness may not equate to visual impact.
The Issue of Setting
There is a visual dimension to the preservation of the setting of a heritage asset. However, setting is not strictly defined in only visual terms and there does not have to be an inter-visibility between elements for there to be a historical relationship which is deemed significant. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that the setting relates to the ‘surroundings in which a heritage asset is experienced’. Therefore, the perceptual qualities of a setting including noise and smell may also have some relevance (e.g. tranquility in the setting of a religious shrine). The NPPF also states, “extent is not fixed, and this may change as the asset and its surroundings evolve”.
Case law matters because it answers the question posed by loose policy wording.
NPPF Seminar, LI Seminar 21.02.2019 - Paul Brown QC, Landmark Chambers – What’s Law Got to do with it? The Future of Landscape Led Planning Under the NPPF
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