1. The Foresight Land Use Futures Project aims to... whether existing land use patterns and practices are fit for... Foresight Land Use Futures Project in a Nutshell

Foresight Land Use Futures Project in a Nutshell
1. The Foresight Land Use Futures Project aims to help policy makers understand
whether existing land use patterns and practices are fit for the future and what
actions should be taken to ensure that land continues to be able to support
the lives dependant on it in the long term.
2. How we use land fundamentally affects our economy, the environment and
our society. The Foresight study is a fresh chance to explore the way we view
and value land. It will help policymakers anticipate change, plan for the
future and consider new possibilities for the way land is used.
3. In the post-war period food production and the re-building of damaged
infrastructure and homes were major priorities for government. The Town and
Country Planning Act 1947 grew out of these priorities and established a land
use model which makes a clear distinction between urban and rural land use
and which is largely unaltered today. The extent to which such historical
imperatives shaping land patterns and practices are still influential today will
be explored in the project, including whether the rural/urban divide deeply
embedded in the national consciousness continues to serve as an appropriate
context in which to make decisions about how land is used.
4. There is widespread agreement that the demands being made on land are
greater than ever. Targets to build new homes, to increase the amount of
energy produced by renewable sources, to allow access to land whilst also
protecting the interest of land owners, heritage sites, biodiversity and
ecosystems, all create pressure on the land resource. Incentivising land owners
to care for the environment as well as increasing productivity and
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safeguarding profit, food and water security policies, policies to deliver “green
infrastructure”, alleviate flooding, build new infrastructure, support adaptation
to and mitigation of climate change, provide clean drinking water, air and soil,
viable areas for recreation, effective waste storage systems, are all important
and to some extent competing goals. The project will create an evidence base
to help create a better understanding of where trade-offs may be needed, and
explore how the “land system” could be used to deliver multiple outcomes in
the same physical space.
5. We must acknowledge that in the future we are likely to live, travel and work
in different ways. While it is impossible to predict the future, an attempt to
understand different possible trajectories of social, environment and economic
change could enlighten policy-makers on how possible transformations are
likely to affect the demands made on land.
6. Climate change could, amongst many potential impacts, result in major
migration shifts, environmental refugees, extreme weather events, rising sealevels, changing habitats, crops failures, water shortages, and flooding as well
as more positive outcomes such as economic and business opportunities in
some sectors. Similarly, the evolution of the global economy could unfold in
different ways. Major market failures, recessions, an increasing gap between
rich and poor, could all potentially lead to pressure for the UK to become
more self-sufficient. Equally, the benefits of a thriving global economy could
be great: growth of the economy, increased opportunities to live, work, travel
and trade. How drivers such as these, as well as a host of others, might play
out is uncertain. The project will identify significant uncertainties and factors
driving change, consider how these factors interact and assess whether the
UK’s land use architecture is sufficiently resilient and flexible, including how
land can be used to mitigate problems.
7. Some factors driving land use change are of course already in train,
particularly those stemming from regulatory developments. For example,
evolving EU agricultural and rural development policy; international trade
agreements; environmental legislation, including landscapes, biodiversity,
water, soils, heritage, amenity/public access and enjoyment, fertilisers and
pesticides, and the handling and recycling of wastes; climate change and
energy policy; spatial planning, including prospects for urban and industrial
development, the regional development agenda and the implications of
lifestyle changes and expectations; food and health policy, including biosecurity issues.
8. An integrated approach to examining the issues is needed. The project will
look across the policy spectrum to consider the extent to which land can
deliver society’s potential future demands and provide examples of how land
can be used to deliver multiple benefits. It will take a long-term strategic
view, conceptualising land as a system of component parts which influence
each other and are influenced by external factors. By better understanding of
the connected nature of the various components of the system, and the
positive and negative feedback loops within it, the project will begin to form a
picture of where the critical pressure points are and identify parts of the
system where irreversible unintended consequences could occur.
9. In short, the project is a diagnostic and prioritisation exercise. The
combination of a strong evidence base with the systems work and scenarios
will allow Foresight to identify those issues which are most critical due to long
term implications and those actions which are most urgent.
10. The Foresight team will work with a large number of academics and
stakeholders throughout, supported by a multidisciplinary group of experts
Chaired by Professor David Newbery, a leading economist. The project is
overseen by Professor John Beddington the Government’s Chief Scientific
Adviser and Head of the Government Office for Science and is sponsored by
two government Ministers:
a. Baroness Kay Andrews OBE, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at
the Department for Communities and Local Government and
b. Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Minister for the Natural and Marine
Environment, Wildlife and Rural Affairs at the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
11. The project will deliver findings in January 2010. For more information contact
Project Leader Nicola O’Connor on 0203 300 8577