HOW should land be used? With all the competing uses and no more land being made, indeed some of the coasts being eroded, how can everything be accommodated in a way that does not destroy what is there?

We have a beautiful and diverse country with eco systems that need protecting, increasing risks from climate change, and a growing population. One day England may overtake Malta as the most densely populated country in Europe.

The Government has a lot to do at this time, but there are opportunities to bring about changes that will help to protect and restore the productivity of the soil and ensure a supply of clean air and water. Surely these are basic necessities.

For planning, perhaps the time has come to have an overall, co-ordinated view rather than a proliferation of government departments each doing their own thing? The Department for Communities and Local Government works on planning. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs deals with agriculture. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy deals with infrastructure. The Department for Transport deals with long-term transport planning. There is also a Ministry for Climate Change.

A way forward that some are calling for is a Department of Land Use that would bring the strategic elements of all these departments together. It could ensure, for instance, that the highest number of houses is not planned to be built in areas where there is a risk of flooding, water shortages and other environmental constraints. That housing and transport are planned together. That towns and cities have farms that supply local food. That farming to provide food remains the core purpose of much rural land to provide food in an age of climate change. That energy is generated in ways that do not take up valuable land. That an overview of the available brown fields can direct where housing goes and prioritise it over the use of further green fields. That affordable social housing is built and the existing stock is well maintained. That high-density, high-quality terraced housing can be not only beautiful to look at but also comfortable to live in. That development does not infringe on the areas needed for wildlife and nature conservation and indeed builds on the work to increase and enhance them.

The Land Use Futures project in 2010 noted: “Land and its many uses provide the bedrock of the country and the foundation of our wellbeing, prosperity and national identity… a critical choice for Governments is whether to address the future challenges in an incremental and piecemeal fashion, or whether to aim for a more coherent and consistent approach to managing land use.”

The Government’s Land Use Futures of 2010 made a strong case for the need to think strategically about the future of land over long timescales. This is driven by, for example, the risk from flooding to 55 per cent of water treatment works and pumping stations, 28 per cent of gas infrastructure and 20 per cent of rail tracks.

Professors of biodiversity, eco systems and environmental economics point out that the current piecemeal approach is delivering land that is far from optimal for everyone and that the risks will increase is this is continued. Other approaches to land use design would have far better results. The need is for an overall vision.