Article

One land, many voices

Controversy surrounds the measures needed to switch to less polluting re-newable energy. Many question a major expansion of onshore wind turbines, given their landscape impact and limited effectiveness. We need new measures to promote effective, alternative renewable energy sources - in the right place.

It's not often you hear a senior politician talk about land. Yet, land - its use, character and condition - makes a major contribution to our quality of life. That is why it was a rare delight last week to hear David Miliband, the environment secretary, outline his vision for land use in Britain. His starting point was that, as a country, "we underestimate the importance of land use to our social, economic and environmental progress". He recognised that shared spaces reinforce community and cohesion, and the contribution of our landscape's beauty to the economy.

Miliband's speech to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) told us we must continue to reform agricultural policy to link public payments to the provision of environmental goods, and to value land not just in terms of wildlife and landscape but also for its "ecosystems services" - critically, flood management and use as a carbon sink.

Unsurprisingly, the challenge of climate change suffused Miliband's vision. As well as reducing the carbon footprint of new buildings, we should examine the carbon intensity of existing land use and new urban forms.

Controversy surrounds the measures needed to switch to less polluting... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

It's not often you hear a senior politician talk about land. Yet, land - its use, character and condition - makes a major contribution to our quality of life. That is why it was a rare delight last week to hear David Miliband, the environment secretary, outline his vision for land use in Britain. His starting point was that, as a country, "we underestimate the importance of land use to our social, economic and environmental progress". He recognised that shared spaces reinforce community and cohesion, and the contribution of our landscape's beauty to the economy.

Miliband's speech to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) told us we must continue to reform agricultural policy to link public payments to the provision of environmental goods, and to value land not just in terms of wildlife and landscape but also for its "ecosystems services" - critically, flood management and use as a carbon sink.

Unsurprisingly, the challenge of climate change suffused Miliband's vision. As well as reducing the carbon footprint of new buildings, we should examine the carbon intensity of existing land use and new urban forms.

Controversy surrounds the measures needed to switch to less polluting re-newable energy. Many question a major expansion of onshore wind turbines, given their landscape impact and limited effectiveness. We need new measures to promote effective, alternative renewable energy sources - in the right place.

It was refreshing to hear a minister credit the government's considerable achievements improving the recycling of previously developed, brownfield land while increasing housing supply. Since John Prescott's demotion, little recognition has been given to the renewal of many urban areas, and to how much needs to be done. As Miliband reflected: "The best policy for protecting rural England is urban renaissance."

Today, the planning system stands on the brink of destructive upheaval as a Labour cabinet completes a controversial white paper. Miliband was almost coy in his cursory reference to this. No doubt he is aware that a wide range of NGOs fear the white paper could weaken the provision of a robust, democratic forum for public debate over land-use change. Proposals from the Treasury-driven Barker review of planning point to a strengthening of the voice of short-term business interests. The proposed independent planning commission, which would take decisions on major infrastructure development out of the hands of ministers and, it is feared, seriously reduce public influence, is totemic of the government's current thinking.

Whatever Miliband's own vision for land use - and he has made a compelling opening pitch - we need to retain the democratic space for effective debate over how we can best secure the long-term public interest in that scarcest of resources, the land.

ยท Neil Sinden is policy director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)



Source: http://society.guardian.co....

MAR 14 2007
https://www.windaction.org/posts/7783-one-land-many-voices
back to top