19 February 2017

King West

Will Brexit boost our green and pleasant land?

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary for Agriculture and Environment is voicing the positives of the UK being freed from the “one-size-fits-all” shackles of the European Union and is prophesising that our diverse countryside is set to enjoy a renaissance in the coming years.

Setting out plans for the post-Brexit UK countryside in
two green papers, Mrs Leadsom presented a paper on the environment at the end of January and a paper on farming is still to follow. The papers are to be ambitious and positive, depicting a landscape that is bright and green.

Mapping out the future of our beloved countryside, requires a deep understanding of what our land is for. Generations before us have farmed the land upon which we are now deciding the future in the provision of food, fuel, bre and building materials. The land of recent years provides the majority of these basics from factories, supplied by wells and quarries that are tiny in the grand scheme of things. Only food production still demands vast space in our countryside. Even that space is significantly smaller than which our great grand parents’ generation required. In Japan, for example, robots will soon be harvesting 30,000 lettuces a day grown under LED lights, without pesticides, consuming minimal water or power. A shed less than one acre in size will produce the same volume of lettuces that we in the UK yield from a 300-acre farm.

Where money allows, the same land is enabling us to feed an ever-increasing population. It has been estimated by Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University in New York that by 2050, with a worldwide population of nine billion, we will be farming less land- a piece the size of India, to comfortably yield the crops required.

Where less of the countryside is required for food growth, following the shrinkage pattern of land predisposed to fuel production, more space can be given over to houses, roads and other forms of development. Mrs Leadsom will debate that this has little threat to the biodiversity of the countryside for three reasons. Presently, less than 2.5% of England and just 1% of Great Britain is built upon. Secondly, urban wildlife is thriving; surplus Peregrine Falcons are being exported from towns and cities, hedgehogs and foxes are increasing in numbers in urban developments, moving out to the countryside rather than the opposite situation of previous years. Thirdly, originally presented by previous Agriculture and Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson MP, a strategy of offsetting will be adopted where developers are forced to create suitable like-for-like habitats elsewhere in the event of destruction for a building project. Nature will thrive again for the first time since the Ice Age.

King West sees the direction of government thinking as understandably concerning to farmers, but also offering great opportunities. Taking advantage of the prospects presented
to farmers by schemes such as habitat offsetting, where a developer rather than the government might pay a landowner to plant and maintain a woodland, is something King West is very well placed to advise on.

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