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Learning from Land Reform

Tom Kenny

Here at Shared Assets we support the development of new models of managing land that deliver shared social, economic and environmental benefits. However, making land work for everyone will require changes to public policy as well as new business models.

Our policy work initially focused on the immediate barriers to new models of land management such as access to land data, local authority commissioning, and planning policy. Whilst these are significant issues facing practitioners, we have increasingly seen that it is crucial to consider some deeper and more structural barriers. Attendees at our 2015 ‘Making Land Work’ event were keen for us to generate some ‘big asks’ around issues like land ownership, subsidy and taxation, to create more opportunities for sustainable, productive and socially useful land management.

The different countries of the United Kingdom have quite different histories, traditions and cultures of land use and ownership. Moreover, devolution means that we are likely to see further divergence in this area. In Scotland there is a well-developed legislative agenda bringing in new rights for communities to secure access to and ownership of land, including the preparation of a draft Land Reform Bill. Elsewhere in the U.K. the public debate on land is less well developed, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one!

We are currently working with Community Food Growers Network, Landworkers Alliance and the Radical Housing Network to develop a shared agenda around land issues. Together we have recently facilitated two lively and well-attended workshops at the  2015 Food Sovereignty Gathering and Oxford Real Farming Conference 2016.

In October, we took part in a roundtable on access to land hosted by Funding Enlightened Agriculture. So while there is a debate underway outside Scotland, rapidly rising land prices and increased disposals of public land mean that there is a pressing need for a more strategic and focused approach. We need to learn about what is happening across the U.K. and to learn from each other’s experiences.

We are grateful to the Seedbed Christian Community Trust for providing funding to enable us to take a structured approach to taking this forward. We are building relationships between activists, campaigners, researchers and policy makers, and exploring the potential for developing a shared agenda for change. We are undertaking one-to-one conversations and small group meetings in Scotland, N Ireland and Wales with those who are actively involved in or campaigning for the management of land for public good, in order to map out what is already happening, identify key issues and understand developing priorities.

We then hope to bring a range of different players in this field from across the U.K. for a workshop to review the outcomes of the research, share learning, build relationships and develop a set of shared priorities for further action. We hope such a meeting will make a significant contribution to building a coalition to create a more equitable approach to the ownership and management of land, one that delivers shared social, economic and environmental benefits for everyone.

Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more this work or share your own thoughts about how public policy can help us make land work for everyone.

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