Election 2024 update: Key manifesto points on environmental and agricultural policy

Summer 2024 is now here, and this year it brings a General Election on 4 July 2024. At present the polls have the Labour Party ahead with a strong lead followed by the Conservative Party.

Each of these parties have now released their election manifesto. In a national and global context where climate change, food security and net-zero targets have become increasingly important it is of little surprise that both parties have set out significant policy points which relate to the environment and agriculture sector.

These policies will be of significance to landowners and those involved in the natural capital sector. This article summarises some key points from each manifesto.

  • A promise to abolish nutrient neutrality rules to unlock the building of 100,000 new homes with local consent. An intention to replace this with a one-off mitigation fee payable by developers so there is not net additional pollution.
  • To continue with the Biodiversity Net Gain scheme created by the Environment Act and to use future rounds of the Landscape Recovery Scheme to support more local projects.
  • To enhance nature by planting trees and fulfilling peatland commitments through Nature for Climate Funding, and to reform the planning system to make it easier to plant trees.
  • To designate a new National Park and to work with landowners, charities, and others to open up more access to nature The Conservatives are clear that this will not include them imposing a universal right to roam.
  • A commitment to protect the green belt from uncontrolled development while ensuring homes are built where it makes sense.

  • Like the Conservatives, Labour intends to implement solutions to unlock the building of homes presently affected by nutrient neutrality. Labour are clear they intend to do this without weakening environmental protections.
  • To introduce a land-use framework and make environmental land management schemes work for both farmers and nature.
  • A commitment to protect nature and meet commitments under the Environment Act. To also improve access to nature, promote biodiversity and protect the landscape and wildlife. Labour intends to achieve this in part by creating new National River Walks and National Forests in England and by expanding nature-rich habitats such as wetlands, peat bogs and forests.
  • To take steps to ensure more high-quality, well-designed homes are built to create places that increase climate resilience and promote nature recovery.
  • A commitment to preserving the green belt whilst taking a strategic approach to greenbelt land designation and release to build more homes in the right places. A focus is on the release of lower quality “grey belt” land and ensuring development benefits both communities and nature.

  • A commitment to deliver net-zero by 2050. Policy in this area includes keeping the windfall tax on oil and gas companies in place, trebling offshore wind capacity, and building the first two carbon capture and storage clusters. The Conservatives focus on achieving this through a pragmatic approach, and also plan to open new gas power stations.

  • An intention to deliver zero-carbon electricity in Britain by 2030. More broadly, a plan to double onshore wind, triple solar power, and quadruple offshore wind by 2030 and further investment in carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and marine energy all brought into place with a new Energy Independence Act.
  • Funding of £1 billion to accelerate deployment of carbon capture and £500 million to support the manufacturing of green hydrogen.

  • The Conservatives have included a section dedicated to farmers and fisheries as part of their manifesto.
  • A promise to increase the UK agriculture budget by £1 billion and to ensure it rises with inflation each year. They also plan to introduce a legally binding target to enhance food security which is intended to help determine where to concentrate farming funds.
  • To continue to maintain their approach to Environmental Land Management Schemes and to build on these schemes further.
  • To introduce a new UK-wide £20 million Farming Innovation Fund.
  • Continue to ensure that UK farming is placed at the heart of UK trade.
  • To continue/put into place policies which support solar power development, but not on high grade agricultural land. This includes new promised rules to prevent solar farms being clustered in one area to protect rural landscapes.
  • To continue to invest in flood defences to protect homes, farms and businesses which is intended to work alongside the Flood Recovery Framework and Farming Recovery Fund to directly support those affected by flooding.
  • To reform the planning system to deliver fast track permissions for the building of infrastructure on farms (e.g. glasshouses, slurry and grain stores and reservoirs).

  • Take a position that food security is national security and have said they will champion British farming whilst protecting the environment. They plan to set a target for half of all food purchased across the public sector to be produced locally or certified to higher environmental standards.
  • Labour has also advised it will work with farmers on measures to eradicate Bovine TB to protect livelihoods and so they can end what they view as the “ineffective” badger cull.

While there is common ground between these parties, there are also significant points of difference. Full details of the manifestos are available for the Conservatives and for Labour on their respective websites.

How can Foot Anstey help?

Foot Anstey is a panel firm for the National Farmers Union and can provide farmers and other rural landowners with advice in relation to all natural capital schemes and matters concerning farming or rural land.

We have large teams of specialist lawyers in real estate, clean energy and infrastructure, planning, tax and succession who can provide a wealth of experience and legal expertise.

Check out our Experts in the Field podcast, where we focus on insights and practical advice on important issues for agriculture and rural business or visit our Farms, Estates & Rural Land web page for more information about how we can assist.

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