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.

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

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