Closed petition Ban development on agricultural land to increase food self-sufficiency

The Government should immediately ban development of green land that has been or is used for farming. In many places like Sussex high quality farmland is being built on to meet government targets. These areas are often cheap to build on, but mean that quality agricultural land is being lost.

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We should only build on areas that is not or has not previously been used for farming. Russia and Ukraine currently produce over a quarter of the world's wheat, as well as many other crops. Future imports can no longer be guaranteed due to the conflict. In the future this could cause food shortages and increases in prices of stable foods from bread to vegetable oils, which would have a major affect on peoples lives. Taking action now will help give the UK independence and food security. Preserve our fields for survival.

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Government responded

This response was given on 5 August 2022

Government has committed to broadly maintaining current levels of food production. National planning policy sets a clear presumption away from developing high-quality agricultural land where possible.

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This Government has committed to broadly maintaining current levels of food production in the Food Strategy, to ensure our continued high levels of food security. Our high degree of food security is built on supply from diverse sources; strong domestic production as well as imports through stable trade routes. We produce 60% of all the food we need, and 74% of food which we can grow or rear in the UK for all or part of the year, and these figures have changed little over the last 20 years.

There will always be multiple pressures on our land which require individual landowners, managers and Government to make decisions about trade-offs. Striking the right balance between different land uses is an important task which DEFRA and DLUHC have been working closely on. The National Planning Policy Framework aims to protect the best and most versatile agricultural land from significant, inappropriate or unsustainable development proposals, recognising the economic and other benefits of this land. It sets out a clear presumption away from the use of high-quality agricultural land for development where possible.

Having an effective, up-to-date plan in place is essential to planning for and meeting housing requirements in ways that make good use of land and result in well-designed and attractive places to live. The Government expects local authorities to work together to plan for and deliver the homes and infrastructure our communities need. We are committed to making the most of brownfield land and existing policy for protecting greenfield remains firmly in place.

However, it is important to note that there is not a direct correlation between the amount of land farmed and productivity. Around 60% of the food we produce comes from just 30% of farmed land, and some sectors do not necessarily need much land in order to expand the amount they are able to produce. It is possible to maintain our food production by harnessing new technologies and innovation, and taking advantage of opportunities to grow and eat more of our own food, while seeing some land use change in some other areas. We will be investing £270 million across farming innovation funding programmes until 2029, to unlock technologies to drive sustainable farming techniques which will help increase productivity and profitability and the sector’s long-term resilience.

We will continue to keep this closely under review. Recognising the importance of food security, in the Agriculture Act 2020 the Government made a commitment to produce an assessment of our food security at least once every three years. The first UK Food Security Report was published in December 2021. The report recognises the contribution made by British agriculture to our resilience, and the importance of strong domestic production to our food security. It considers the UK's food supply sources overall, noting that domestic production and diversity of supply are both important to our food security.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Other parliamentary business

MPs debate National Food Strategy and food security

MPs debated the National Food Strategy and food safety on Thursday 27 October in the main House of Commons chamber. The debate was led by Esther McVey MP and Kerry McCarthy MP.

Watch the debate

Read the transcript

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### What are backbench business debates?

Backbench business debates give backbenchers (MPs who aren’t ministers or shadow ministers) an opportunity to secure a debate on a topic of their choice, either in the Chamber or Westminster Hall.

MPs can make a request for a debate to the Backbench Business Committee, who hears and decides which debates to schedule.

Backbench debates can either be general debates (which do not end in a vote) or be on a substantive motion (which calls for an action and can end in a vote). This debate was a general debate.

MPs debate food security and farming

On Wednesday 19 April MPs debated food security and farming. MPs discussed preventing development on agricultural land, and preventing the loss of farmland to solar farms.

This was a Westminster Hall debate, led by Wendy Morton MP.

What are Westminster Hall debates?

Westminster Hall is the second Chamber of the House of Commons.

Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Any MP can take part in a Westminster Hall debate.

Debates in Westminster Hall take place on ‘general debate' motions expressed in neutral terms. These motions are worded ‘That this House has considered [a specific matter]'.

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MPs call for food security to be designated as a public good

MPs on the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee have called for the Government to seize its opportunity to ensure deliver food security, following an inquiry into environmental change and food security.

What has the Committee said?

On 8 December, the Committee published a report on the UK's preparedness and resilience to future food supply stresses or shocks caused by climate change and biodiversity loss.

The report calls on the Government to implement the following key measures:

  • Publish the Land Use Framework no later than the 19th December 2023 and integrate food security as a central principle
  • Designate food security as a public good
  • Provide more clarity on its plans for baseline metrics in food sustainability
  • Publish a strategy for innovative food production technologies

You can read a summary of the Committee's report, and the Committee's full report on their website. You can also find out more about the Committee's work on environmental change and food security.

The Government now must respond to the committee's report within two months. The committee will publish the Government’s response on the Committee's website.

What is the Environmental Audit Committee?

The Environmental Audit Committee is a cross-party group of backbench MPs that considers the extent to which the policies and progress of government departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development and audits their performance against sustainable development and environmental protection targets.

The Environmental Audit Committee is a select committee. Find out how select committees work.

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