My Lords, the evidence we received when I sat on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 Committee, the Rural Economy Committee and then the Food Poverty, Health and Environment Committee convinced me that we need a land strategy plan in this country. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, said, it does not need to be a detailed one; that is not the objective, which is to take a holistic look at the countryside in the way the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, just said so that there is no contradiction between various types of development.
There is only a finite amount of land in England, but there are often many competing demands for that land. If we take the north face of Scafell Pike, for instance, there is not much competition for that land, but if we take the triangle between Milton Keynes, Cambridge and Oxford, there is huge competition—from agriculture, horticulture and forestry, with the demand to fulfil the Government’s requirement to plant more trees, from industry, new roads, new railways and new housing. We are told that we need to grow different types of crops, to change our diets or to grow more fruit and vegetables in this country, but there is only a limited amount of land that can grow those sort of crops and there is no security for that land.
The National Infrastructure Commission and developers will be keen to take any agricultural land it possibly can to fulfil its development ambitions. Can the Minister confirm that the National Infrastructure Commission does not have to take biodiversity and climate change into account in its proposals? If it does not, then farming is at real risk and the proposals that my noble friend is so ably putting before the Committee are in jeopardy.
We need to assess what agriculture needs over the next period to secure production and the growth of the right crops so that it does not conflict with forestry ambitions or the Prime Minister’s demand to “build, build, build” wherever we can, and so that our countryside is not ruined as a result. We are at the brink of making a huge mistake for our grandchildren and future generations. In our effort to improve this country’s economy and drive it forward, which we very much want, we must also secure the landscapes and the agricultural land that needs to be kept for production of food and which is now under threat.