Agriculture & Rural Development

75%+ of Cornwall’s land use is agricultural. Agricultural reform is vital to achieving net-zero carbon and reversing biodiversity loss. Massive-scale monocrop farming and current approaches to livestock (especially cattle) farming degrade the land, reduce our biodiversity, and make a significant contribution to Cornwall’s carbon emissions. Soil regeneration and more ecologically-friendly forms of farming are vital if we are to achieve net-zero-carbon by 2030. However, we recognise that most farming is not currently economically viable without subsidies - and that subsidies are a major driver of current farming practice. Therefore policies to support reform must also support farmers.

In particular, prioritisation should be given to the development of a broader Local Industrial Strategy to support local foods for local markets. This should focus on supporting small farmers who are at the heart of many rural communities. Very little physical or commercial infrastructure currently exists to facilitate this kind of shift. While Cornwall Council only owns around 1.5% of Cornwall’s farming estates, proactive policies, particularly around Planning, can play a major role in identifying the blocks to change and facilitating collaboration to overcome them.


  1. Lower-grade land should also be protected from development in order to facilitate transition to net-zero-carbon.

Currently, only land classified as 1, 2, or 3a is afforded protection from development. Land classified as 3b, 4, & 5, however, can play an important role in carbon sequestration with the right approach to land management. We suggest this should be a major change to the existing proposals.


  1. Require higher ecological standards of Whole Estate Plans.

Requiring higher ecological standards from the Whole Estate Plan process (to allow more development on agricultural land) could, for example, include the requirement for Estates to reduce imported fertiliser, bring herbicide/pesticide use to zero over an agreed period, and to develop higher soil carbon (for example, through no till, organic agriculture and even permaculture).


  1. Incentivisation of biochar facility development (this also feeds into flood management by increasing the water holding capacity of soil).

Biochar is an extremely effective approach to carbon storage in soil and is easy for farmers or other rural producers to generate. It can increase carbon sequestration while also providing new sources of income for small farmers.


  1. Livestock farming needs to be subject to much stricter criteria. This can be achieved through the Planning process by ensuring development of farm buildings is associated with strict criteria.

Livestock (especially cattle) farming is a very difficult area in which to make clear policy because there are many factors at play. On the one hand, the substantial methane emissions produced by cattle and the inefficient use of land for grazing is a problem for strategies to reduce net-carbon emissions. On the other, transition to a more diversified output requires consideration of what is possible with different land grades, and there are examples of regenerative agriculture which have used cattle effectively in a land-management approach to achieve a total reduction of net-carbon emissions. What is possible in one farm is not necessarily possible in another and a policy approach to supporting agricultural reform in Cornwall must acknowledge the complexity and diversity of approaches to farming as well as the financial constraints on small farmers for whom local policy changes can affect access to national subsidies.

However, there are some general changes that it should be possible to achieve across the board and the Planning process can play a part in this by making them requirements for farm buildings approval.

Suggestions include:

  • inclusion of legumes in pasture
  • grazing intensity optimisation
  • trees planted at field edges
  • responsible slurry disposal
  • cattle-sheds with sloped floors to facilitate urine run-off reducing ammonia


  1. Planning incentives for horticulture development, especially in proximity to urban settlements, can revive the local Market Garden economy, reducing the carbon footprint of foods, supporting local businesses and town centres. Land needs to be identified for this purpose in the Local Plan and be properly supported by the DPD.