Farming in the Uplands - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Campaign to Protect Rural England


    — CPRE welcomed many of the recommendations made in the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) report into the future of the uplands. In particular we were pleased that the CRC shared our view that it was time to stop perceiving the uplands in negative terms and instead look towards a more positive role for them in the future.

    — CPRE agrees that action is needed to make upland farming more profitable but this should not be at the expense of the environment. It is understandable that after decades of low incomes and losses, upland farmers are keen to capitalise on any rise in prices for their produce. However, this should not lead to restocking at levels that means the re-emergence of overgrazing. Neither should we allow the need to diversify the economies of our upland areas to justify damaging development that harms the very assets of beauty and tranquillity that make our uplands such special places.

    — In our submissions to the CRC's inquiry CPRE recognised that the hill farming communities of England are an essential element of the social fabric of the uplands. Upland farmers have a key role in maintaining the character of our upland landscapes. Their landscape management activities create a sense of place and identity for those who live in and visit the uplands, and these activities should be better rewarded by agri-environment payments and, eventually, a much reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

    — In our view it is not a case of refocusing attention back on to farming instead of the environment, but realising that the real opportunity for upland farming in the future is to equip the sector with the integrated policy measures that are needed to make it better at producing both high quality food and a wide range of environmental public goods.


  1.  CPRE agrees with the CRC that it is important that in the future, payments for environmental management should be expanded to encompass land management activities that are currently undervalued by society, including carbon storage in soils and managing water flows. Payments for these activities could provide additional sources of income for upland farmers, in addition to the more "traditional", but equally important, landscape feature management payments that are an integral part of existing agri-environment schemes.

  2.  These "new" land management activities should be compatible with the aim of maintaining the traditional character of upland landscapes. There must be better consultation with those who live and work in the uplands. In the past upland communities seem to have had little say over how the multiple land use demands on the areas in which they live are met. The perception that the uplands are somehow "empty" has resulted in them tending to be regarded as "free space" for imposing developments that have not always been in their long term interests. Over the years these have included the construction of reservoirs, major quarrying operations, intensive commercial timber production, military training areas and large scale wind energy infrastructure. CPRE believes that great care is needed to avoid industrialising the uplands in pursuit of short term economic gain at the expense of long term social and environmental values.

  3.  In the next phase of CAP reform land management payments to farmers should more closely recognise the association between desired and valuable environmental outcomes and the economics of particular farming systems. In many cases the continued provision of many environmental public goods and a wide range of ecosystem services will depend on the continuation of upland farming systems.


  4.  CPRE was unsurprised that affordable housing emerged as a key issue in the CRC's report. This is often a concern for farming families when it comes to succession. We believe that affordable homes should remain so in perpetuity affordable that local people on lower incomes can continue to rent or part own them both now and in the future. This could also enable those on low incomes to live close to where they work, helping to reduce the proportion of their income that is spent on travel. It will also help ensure the future of rural communities by preventing villages from becoming affluent retirement zones, or dominated by second homes and holiday accommodation.


  5.  During the inquiry familiar criticisms were levelled at the planning system as being obstructive to delivering affordable housing and to improving the economic viability, in broad terms, of upland communities. CPRE maintains its view that local authorities should work with the communities they represent to develop and agree development plans. Relaxing planning controls is likely to lead to less sustainable development and "planning by appeal".

  6.  CPRE believes the planning system should be used to ensure a discerning approach is taken to economic development, drawing on some of the recommendations made in The Rural Challenge report to stimulate rural economies in ways sympathetic to local landscapes and settlements. This could include more support for home working to support businesses that keep villages "alive" during the day, which would help maintain the "footfall" shops and post offices need to remain in business.

  7.  Outside of Government funding streams, Community Land Trusts and other similar community funding mechanisms could also help with providing land and facilities for businesses which could improve the range of services and employment choices for local people, helping maintain the economic viability of rural areas.

  8.  CPRE also believes local food networks not only provide employment opportunities but can also help with the process of engaging local communities with developing solutions to a wide range of sustainability challenges, as we are finding with our Heritage Lottery funded Mapping Local Food Webs project.

October 2010

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