The NFU is responding to a consultation on the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Arc draft spatial framework and is calling for views from members set to be impacted by the proposals. The deadline for feedback is 28 September.
The framework covers an area of land that is 76% agricultural, with approximately a third falling into grades 1 and 2 - the most productive land for growing food.
The consultation by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) is being undertaken to inform the government’s approach to development within the arc. This has been identified as a key economic priority between now and 2050.
Threats and opportunities
The proposed vision presents some potential opportunities for farming businesses in the form of realising increased digital connectivity, improved water and transport infrastructure and access to affordable rural housing. It also covers significant threats from large-scale development.
This has the potential to materially impact the viability of many farm businesses due to the emergence of large infrastructure projects that may have cascading impacts on agricultural land, as well as increase pressure on valuable resources such as water and waste management facilities.
Future planning policy
The framework is intended to set national planning and transport policy for the area and will direct future local planning decisions on:
- How land is used.
- How the environment is protected and enhanced.
- Where and what type of new development happens.
- What infrastructure is provided.
In its current form, the spatial framework is proposing the significant urbanisation of an area of England synonymous with its open countryside, green and blue infrastructure, and areas of outstanding natural beauty, all of which are first and foremost agricultural landscapes.
Recognising the role of farming
The framework and its associated development would require a significant loss of land likely to negatively impact agricultural businesses, and therefore the NFU is working to ensure the role of farming and the rural economy is duly considered within the framework.
It is critical then that the proposals must consider a pattern of development that also works for farmers and rural communities. To make provision for the agricultural transition being enacted through the Agriculture, Environment and Trade Bills, we require a spatial framework that supports a modern and vibrant agricultural sector through inclusive and progressive policy mechanisms and one that will actively support rural businesses.