Devon pilot to inform new Land Use Framework

Published on 26th February 2024

Evidence from Devon recommends a new Multifunctional Land Use Framework is the way forward  

A recently published report uses evidence from Devon to make recommendations on the future of the Government’s new National Land Use Framework, which is due to be published in 2024. Devon is one of two counties in England which piloted a land use framework, led by the  Food, Farming and Countryside Commission. The pilot aimed to support Devon partners in the public, private and voluntary sector to collaborate on land use decision making processes. 

Between 2021 and 2023, Independent charity Devon Communities Together, the Rural Community Council for Devon, managed the stakeholder engagement of the Devon Pilot project, working with land managers and owners, local leaders and communities in Devon to test how a Land Use Framework could help better decisions about land in the county and to design and test the potential for a Multifunctional Land Use Framework (MLUF) in Devon. The Food, Farming and Countryside Commission’s report, ‘The Multifunctional Land Use Framework - The key to better land use decisions’, is based in part on the Devon pilot programme and recommends that the Government adopts a Multifunctional Land Use Framework to make the best decisions about land use going forward. Another pilot scheme took place in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. 

The framework will support more proactive, integrated action to deliver net zero, nature recovery, ecosystems services, economic development and food production, as well as helping individual landowners and farmers make long term plans as they face a raft of new support mechanisms.The pilot report emphasises the need to collaborate in making decisions about land, whilst navigating diverse and dispersed ownership and responsibilities. A MLUF will help by making it easier for everyone involved at the outset to think strategically and locally with the aim of addressing long-term planning and short-term needs. It sets out a framework to mediate competing pressures and encourage multifunctionality; bringing together key data and expertise, and innovative spatial mapping tools to deliver better land use decisions, optimising precious land for multiple benefits. 

Devon Communities Together was part of a multi-agency leadership group of key stakeholders to deliver the Devon pilot project, which included Westcountry Rivers Trust; Devon County Council (Ecology and Planning); National Trust; National Farmers Union; Environment Agency; Devon Net Zero Taskforce; Duchy of Cornwall; Devon Wildlife Trust; the Country Land & Business Association;  Dartmoor National Park and Exeter University. The Leadership Group was co-chaired by David Fursdon (FFCC Commissioner and President of Devon Communities Together) and Sir Michael Barber.  

The pilot engaged with a wide range of people who own, work on, use and benefit from the land here in Devon to explore different perspectives on what a more resilient and sustainable future could look like. Focussing on the particular climate, topographical, economic and social strengths of Devon, and the South West more broadly, part of the pilot included testing the Framework in seven flood resilience schemes that were contingent on land use decisions.  

“We were pleased and proud to bring our expertise in stakeholder and rural community engagement to this important pilot,” commented Nora Corkery, CEO of Devon Communities Together. “How we use and manage our land affects absolutely everyone and needs input from a wide and diverse range of people and organisations who can both input into and benefit from a land use framework. The data and intelligence we have collected from across the county has been fed into the new report. We look forward to seeing how it informs the next steps in establishing a new National Land Use Framework.” 

The new National Land Use Framework was originally due to be published in 2023 but is now expected sometime in 2024.