Boris Johnson’s pledge to protect 30 per cent of England’s land by 2030 has sparked concern among industry leaders.
The plan would see an additional 400,000 hectares protected to support the recovery of nature, but George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, warned drawing more lines on maps to designate new areas was not the answer for sustaining and building upon environmental performance.
He said: “The current suite of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, seem only to bring heavy-handed, blanket regulation and increased numbers of officials and officers getting in the way of progress rather than providing a collegiate approach to biodiversity and landscape development.
“We need to take much more of a systems approach which integrates farming, other land uses, the environment, public access and animal welfare, which all can live side-by-side within a framework of fair returns, incentives and risk-based regulations.”
CLA president Mark Bridgeman agreed, adding: “Ultimately, Government must work with landowners and businesses using existing tools and policies, such as biodiversity, net gain and agri-environment schemes, alongside improved local planning to build a nature recovery network.”
Following the announcement, Welsh Conservatives Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Janet Finch Saunders called on the Welsh Government to replicate the pledge.
However, Farmers’ Union of Wales head of policy Dr Nick Fenwick warned the move towards more National Parks in Wales would hinder the living experience of rural communities, with designations acting as playgrounds for people outside the area.
He said: “Designation often means increased costs, restrictions and inconveniences, while the honey-pot nature of such areas push house prices out of the reach of local people and threatens the communities and cultures of local populations.”
It came as RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight told an Aspen UK charity event on the future of the countryside this week that the UK will set aside more land for biodiversity over the coming years, with the rest used for a mix of ‘nature friendly’ farming and intensive food production.