Amendment 228 (to Amendment 227)

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 23rd July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour 8:00 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his amendment requiring close links between the planning system and any land use strategy. My view is that we need an overarching land use strategy which would guide all sorts of decision-making processes—the planning system, the ELM schemes and some of the initiatives the Minister referred to, such as local nature recovery strategies and some of the work of the National Infrastructure Commission.

I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, who rightly pointed out that we are at a time of great flux in land use and that a strategy is very much needed now. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, who was quite right about it needing to be wide and not just about agriculture; this is really a strategy about what land is for and how we get the right balance between competing uses.

The noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, has huge experience in these areas and rightly stressed that there should be perhaps one framework at a national level and others more regionally, but also that we have to guard against the nimbyism of too local a structure. If I cannot get the Minister to agree to this amendment, I would be delighted if there were to be a relevant Select Committee of this House.

I listened very carefully to the Minister’s response. Much as I love the National Planning Policy Framework, and I have worked hard on it over the years, it is partial. The reality is that the planning system does not really do anything to weigh up from a range of competing needs what should happen in a given area. It is much more focused on development needs, particularly built development needs. I still think that, irrespective of the National Planning Policy Framework, there is a need for an overarching land use strategy.

The same goes for local nature recovery strategies, which are very much about biodiversity. We are currently looking at a piecemeal arrangement which needs integrating into this strategy. I do not think it needs to be statist at all; it can be generated in ways that make it very much about conversations at a county level and at a national level about the right way to maximise the benefit for all these uses of our limited land.

To touch on the point made by the Minister about the National Infrastructure Commission, I had a hugely interesting discussion with its acting chief executive just before lockdown. It is now getting the hang of its climate change responsibilities, but it has never been tasked with responsibilities for other things such as biodiversity. It is time that the Government tasked the infrastructure commission with taking account of biodiversity needs, as well as the other half of the twin challenges, climate change.

I thank the noble Lord for his offer of further discussion. Although I would much prefer him to accept the amendment, clearly that is not going to happen. I should say that even if we cannot get this amendment accepted in the Agriculture Bill, there are myriad opportunities on which I shall not be backward in coming forward, including the Environment Bill—if it ever comes to our House—and the rumoured changes to planning legislation. When we talk about flooding or carbon or water, I shall be there to talk about an integrated land use strategy. I shall become the Countess of Mar of integrated land use strategies.

As has been said, land is a finite resource—we are not making any more. We need a framework now, and the pressures are growing. I hope that the Minister will recognise the need for some such way forward, but at this moment I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 227 withdrawn.