9: Land Renewing: Reworking for All?

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences. 1

What keeps people working the land: growing crops, raising and trading livestock, enriching the countryside, nurturing nature, hoping to make a living from improving ‘natural capital’ – in plain English, embracing key resources such as soils, peatlands, water supplies, geology, wildlife and living organisms?

And how to assess the cost of renewing that most basic resource – our land – by reworking the countryside for the benefit of all to provide the food we need, enhance the landscape we love and address the climate emergency which threatens us all?

The average farmer’s simple answer to the first question might well be “That’s the only life I know”. This invariably boils down to sentiment, comfort on home turf, being rooted to place, sometimes to language – certainly for farmers in the Fferm Ifan CIC. Their response to that question would be an emphatic “Because it’s where we belong”.2

The answer to the second question is more complex. It depends on a range of factors. Not least among these is the role of government in delivering an integrated land use strategy for England, learning – dare one suggest? – from the differing, and more coordinated, approaches of Scotland and Wales.

In this context, the argument from a former secretary of state for the Environment, John Gummer (Lord Deben), for a new department of land use to coordinate strategy across Whitehall is compelling. There’s “no hope” of sensible land use in England, he maintains, when planning is “imprisoned” within the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), agriculture within the Defra, infrastructure within the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and transport within the Department for Transport (DfT).3

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