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Jeremy's Blog 5/10/2020: Future Land Use

This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 1st October 2020.

Last Monday (28th September) saw two press reports illuminating possible futures. The widely publicised one was the Prime Minister’s “30 by 30” pledge to increase the area of the UK devoted “to nature” to 30 per cent by 2030. The one tucked away in the financial pages was the government’s support for insect farming companies, producing black soldier fly larvae in sheds as poultry and fish feed.

The impact of the first may not yet be clear. No 10 talked of 1,000,000 more acres in National Parks but said nothing about land use, save that the government would work with landowners. The wide-ranging Glover review of landscapes suggested that the Chilterns, the Cotswolds and Dorset/East Devon could see National Parks but, beyond their different governance and purpose, that would not of itself change land use.

The mechanism within the scope of the 25 Year Environment Plan might be the Environment Bill’s Local Nature Recovery Strategies, identifying habitats, priorities and measures at planning authority level with effects that might inform planning zoning under the new planning policy (and perhaps the design codes), the suggested landscape and collaborative Tier 3 of ELM, the operation of biodiversity net gain and other matters. The effects on land management, farming and values remain to be seen as the larger picture on land use planning emerges.

The other glimpse is of a future with more controlled environment farming. Perhaps towards a third of UK agriculture’s output by value is already from under some form of cover. The Government is provided £10m innovation support for black soldier fly larvae farming to produce protein as feed, particularly for poultry and fish. These larvae are favoured for their high protein value and are said to be 300 times as efficient per sq m as Brazilian soya, so easing pressure on the Amazon forests.

The current project would see five million larvae in a building with a supermarket’s waste food as feed and its fish suppliers encouraged to buy larvae-based feed. Their waste (“frass”) would be sold as horticultural fertiliser.

A Barclays report last year saw an $8bn insect protein market by 2030; the European Food Safety Agency could approve several insects for human consumption this year.

Both developments will create work, requiring familiarity with the business-based issues of indoor farming and the potential for some forms of controlled environment farming to be in the urban areas they supply as much as with the emerging land use picture.

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