Friday, 19 November 2010

Would a written charter for land use help to create Big Society?

Most farmers accept the responsibilities that go along with the rights of land ownership. Many would say that they hold land in trust, not just for themselves and their families, but for their communities and for the nation. We certainly depend on them to preserve our iconic landscapes and to keep the land in good heart for future generations. But there are increasing pressures on each piece of land in our crowded world. How can it provide everything we need: food, timber, clean water, carbon storage, space for leisure, physical and mental well-being? Is it possible to create a framework that would integrate these different demands, within a "Big Society" model? The Relu programme provides some interesting examples of collaborative action. In Loweswater landowners have come together with academics to address the problem of algal bloom in the lake; in Pickering a "competency group" of local people and academics has created innovative computer models of flood risk, and resulted in a new solutions being piloted that could protect the town, without spending large sums of money. But is this kind of success specific to particular places and groups of people or could it be repeated elsewhere? Relu's new briefing paper, based on the programme's response to the recent Governement White Paper on the environment, takes a look at these questions and suggests that a written charter for land use that draws on this kind of research could help to enable integrated management of these vital resources.

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