Agriculture Bill

Written evidence submitted by the City of London Corporation (AB44)

Submission by the City of London Corporation

Submitted by the Office of the City Remembrancer

1. The City of London Corporation makes this submission as an organisation that has custodianship of large tracts of land. The evidence does not seek to analyse specific provisions of the Bill but it is hoped that the information provided will inform members in the Committee and during subsequent stages of the Bill.

2. The City Corporation cares for almost 12,000 acres of natural and historic open space. They include internationally important wildlife habitats, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves for the public to enjoy. Most of the open spaces are held by charitable trusts. They are funded principally by the City Corporation, together with donations, sponsorship, grants and trading income. The City’s open spaces have over 23 million visits each year.

3. Internationally famous spaces such as Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest are looked after alongside Burnham Beeches, Coulsdon Common and West Ham Park. Open areas comprising ancient forest, grassland, heathland, lakes and playing fields are within the City Corporation’s stewardship.

4. In Epping Forest and Burnham Beeches the management of the ancient wood pasture landscape is undertaken in a way that is in keeping with its ecology built up over many centuries. In sympathy with ancient methods of woodland management, areas of trees are pollarded on a rotating basis, so as to allow cattle to graze, thus reducing the impact on the land and maintaining delicate forest ecosystems.

5. Cattle are grazed because of the ecological and historic value they bring to the wood pasture landscape. The methods used to upkeep Epping Forest reflect those first mentioned in its 800 year old Charter and current practices would be recognised by those living 200 years ago.

6. Some City Corporation open spaces receive EU funding which allows the City to carry on its environmental and farming management, as described above. Higher level stewardship payments form a substantial part of this funding in recognition of the sympathetic and delicate stewardship carried out by the City Corporation.

7. It is important that any new measures continue funding for this type of high-quality management of the landscape as it promotes care for ecologically important areas, land heritage and sensitive sites. Future arrangements should ensure that sufficient funds are available for the management of complex landscapes. The quality of land management of important natural and historic spaces would decline if this funding were withdrawn or significantly reduced.

8. The Government should consult stakeholders prior to any funding methodologies being developed under the Bill’s provisions regarding outcome-based payments. In any future funding arrangement landowners should not be disadvantaged for factors outside of their control.

9. Recreational access to open spaces should also be promoted and future funding arrangements should recognise that sound access management can require financial commitment by the landowner – for example, monitoring land use and managing recreational areas to minimise ecological impact.

10. The City Corporation supports proposals in the Bill which, when assessing eligibility for Government support for open spaces and farmland and when deciding on the amount of that support, will give greater weight to the quality of environmental stewardship by landowners. Future arrangements should ensure there is sufficient capacity in the delivery agencies to provide support to landowners to deliver the aims of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

October 2018

 

Prepared 1st November 2018