According to a new report from charity CPRE, 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. The authors say this is enough to feed the combined populations of Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield their recommended five-a-day fruit and vegetables.
Between 2010 and 2022, the amount of Best and Most Versatile (BMV) agricultural land set aside for development rose from 60 to 6,000 ha per year, with more than 300,000 homes built on more than 8,000 hectares of prime farmland over the same period. CPRE says that developers are ignoring the development potential of brownfield sites, which could accept more than 1.3 million homes.
‘Our research also reveals that an increased risk of severe flooding caused by climate change will further challenge our food security,’ the charity said in a statement. ‘More than 200,000 hectares – or 60% – of England’s finest Grade 1 agricultural land is within areas at the highest risk of flooding. This is because our most productive farmland is disproportionately close to river and coastal flood plains, with 75% of the best quality land in the East Midlands and 95% in the east of England at the highest risk level.’
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said, “For the first time in several generations, our food security is at risk – yet we’ve seen a 100-fold increase in the loss of our best farmland to development since 2010. Heating, eating and housing are fundamental needs. A healthy environment, mitigating and adapting against the devastation threatened by the climate emergency, is the bedrock that underpins them all. We need to know what to put where. That’s why we need a land use strategy.
“Maintaining agricultural land for domestic food production is critical. This must be achieved in the context of addressing and adapting to climate change, reversing the loss of nature and increasing demands on land for other purposes, not least housing and production of renewable energy.”