Calls to Protect Prime Farmland

child and dog leaning on farm gate

26th July 2022

Image credit: Abigail Oliver

New CPRE research has found there’s been an amazing hundred-fold increase in our best farmland lost to development in little more than a decade. As a result, we’re telling government we need a land strategy and new planning rules to safeguard our food security.

Newly published research on food security has found almost 14,500 hectares of the country’s best agricultural land, which could grow at least 250,000 tonnes of vegetables a year, has been permanently lost to development in just 12 years. This is enough to feed the combined populations of Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield their recommended five-a-day fruit and vegetables.

There was a huge rise in high quality – known as Best and Most Versatile (BMV) – agricultural land set aside for housing and industry between 2010 and 2022, from 60 hectares to more than 6,000 hectares per year. As a result, almost 300,000 homes were built on more than 8,000 hectares of prime farmland in that time. Yet our previous research has shown there is space for 1.3 million homes on previously developed brownfield land, much of it in areas of the midlands and north most in need of regeneration.

The proliferation of solar farms on agricultural land continues to be a concern.  Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers’ Union, described solar as ‘the most pressing issue as to why we have to address land use because otherwise we will be covered in solar’. With applications increasing across Oxordshire, CPRE Oxfordshire is calling for a county-wide policy on renewables to make sure we get what is needed in the right place – the priority for solar being brownfield sites and rooftops, especially on warehouses and new developments.

Watch the launch event, Food security, development and the future of our highest quality agricultural land, on YouTube.