Policy J/AL: Protecting the best agricultural land

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will set out when and how development on agricultural land and soils should be controlled.

Proposed policy direction

Restrict development which would lead to the irreversible loss of the best agricultural land (Grades 1, 2 or 3a) unless it is allocated in the Local Plan to meet development needs, or sustainability considerations and the need for the development are sufficient to override the need to protect the agricultural value of the land. In addition, the impact of development on soils and the protection of soil quality must be considered, through careful management during construction.

Why is this policy needed?

South Cambridgeshire has a significant resource of good quality agricultural land, and this is a valuable resource that needs to be protected. The sector is a key economic and environmental resource with the total farmed area of Greater Cambridge over 72,000 ha.

Much of the best agricultural land lies around Cambridge and the larger settlements, which may be the most sustainable locations for future development. The need to identify and maintain a supply of land for development means there is pressure for development of agricultural land.

Farmland is also an important biodiversity asset for Greater Cambridge. Defra's Agricultural Policy transition plans for England focus support for farmers on sustainable farming practices, including improving soil quality; creating habitats for nature recovery; and making landscape-scale change such as establishing new woodland and other ecosystem services. 

Soil is a key element of the environmental ecosystem. Some of the most significant adverse impacts on soil occur as a result of activities associated with construction activity. It is important that development is carefully managed to ensure that these impacts are minimised.

The protection of peat soil is addressed under the climate change theme.

What consultation have we done on this issue?

The importance of protecting agricultural land came up in responses to a wide range of questions as part of the First Conversation. Concerns related to impact on carbon sequestration, biodiversity and our ability to meet our food growing needs.

What alternatives did we consider?

No Policy – Not considered a reasonable alternative as national planning policy requires the plan to consider the impact on agricultural land.

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

  • Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Topic paper 6: Jobs

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018

  • Policy NH/3: Protecting Agricultural Land

Cambridge Local Plan 2018

  • Policy 8: Setting of the city

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