Working towards a land use strategy pilot

Farmer at work near Roxburgh.
Farmer at work near Roxburgh.

It has been exactly one year since the Scottish Government launched two pilot projects to look at how a land use strategy might work, writes Dr Derek Robeson, Tweed Forum.

The Borders along with Aberdeenshire, are the chosen areas, tasked with developing a pilot Land Use Framework.

The aim is to develop a map-based evaluation tool that may help land managers make more informed decisions The need for such a framework has arisen in recognition of the increasing pressure the land is under for things such as housing, food production and forest cover.

At the same time, people value places where they can enjoy wildlife and landscapes but recognise that the land is a working countryside that rural businesses depend on for sustainable economic growth.

The framework is very much stakeholder focused and the delivery team of Scottish Borders Council, Tweed Forum with support from mapping specialists Environment Systems, has been encouraged by the level of public engagement. The early phase saw dozens of data sets being utilised to produce maps of natural capital.

These maps highlight where potential land use could happen to deliver ecosystem services but, importantly, not necessarily where it should happen. Because the strategy framework is non statutory and non regulatory, it will be left to individual land management planners and land owners to make these decisions. The maps are there simply to inform, not control.

Fourteen workshops took place across the Borders between January and March, and there was a general realisation that public funding is going to become more restricted. The Land Use Strategy pilot could be viewed as a tool to help inform where some of that public money could be spent.

Land needs to be managed sustainably, but there is increasing debate as to what and where the best land use should be in an area, if societal, business and environmental needs are to be accommodated. It is in the area of multi-functional land use that the strategy framework may have a real and practical benefit, specially if used to inform future rural development programmes.

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