Making the best use of your land: reflections from ORFC

Lucy Bjork's presentation at the Oxford Real Farming Conference. (c) Jane Campbell, FFCC.

Today’s blog is written by Ro Osborne, RSPB Policy Assistant for farming, climate and land use, as a follow-up to our session at this year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference where we discussed land use frameworks and heard farmer perspectives on how we can make the best use of our land. 

At this year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference we came together with farmers, citizens and wildlife experts to explore how we can change the way we use our land. We looked at the on-farm implications and explored how the best decisions can be supported.  

This January, RSPB staff headed to Oxford Real Farming Conference to champion the role of nature in our food and farming systems. Alongside partners from Nature Friendly Farming Network and Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, we ran a session on “Making the best use of your land”. After an overview of the need for change and the role of Land Use Frameworks, we heard from three farmers about their experiences with land use transition, wrapping up with an audience discussion around how to make decisions about best use of our land, what might be needed to support landowners in making these decisions, and the role that a Land Use Framework can play.

In order to address the climate and nature crises, we need to make better use of our land, and the agricultural sector has a major role to play. Making the best use of our land requires informed decision making around the trade-offs, benefits and economic viability of different land uses in the context of wider UK landscapes. In our session, we were joined by Belinda Gordon from FFCC who talked about the role of a Land Use Framework in helping guide land use decision making. 

A new way to make better decisions about land 

The pressure on land is growing, and with it, the need to fast track urgent decisions on energy crops, tree planting, nature restoration, housing and more. Recent research has shown that an area of land twice the size of Wales is needed to meet government targets in these four areas alone. Now, a new way to make decisions about land, called a Land Use Framework, is being tested in two English counties. This vital work on the ground will inform a Land Use Framework for England which government committed to in their Food Strategy and which is due to be published in the spring.

The pilots are revealing how important it is for government to prioritise local voices as well as top-down strategies and to cover not just food and nature but housing and other infrastructure too.  

Farmer thoughts on land use strategies   

Sophie Mott speaking giving her opinion as a farmer on land use practices

Sophie Mott at the Oxford Real Farming Conference. (c) Ro Osborne, RSPB.

As around 70% of the UK’s land is farmed, and farmers are ideally placed to understand how we can make best use of our land.  

The Nature Friendly Farming Network recently surveyed a representative group of UK farmers to gather farmer perspectives on land use strategies. It found that 8/10 participants thought that ‘a good land use strategy is a really important part of understanding how farmers need to balance their priorities in terms of land use.’ One farmer commented:  

"The competition of land has never been greater, and a land use strategy is essential to ensure the right areas are given over to nature, development, renewables and food production respectively. Farming and environmental gain are not mutually exclusive, and relatively modest areas of unproductive land can be used for conservation without impacting on the amount of food produced" 

The farmers who joined us to share their experiences at the session agreed. Denise Walton from Peelham farm in the Scottish borders described a Land Use Framework as an “alignment of intent”, not being prescriptive to farmers, but rather providing a guiding vision. Sophie Mott of RSPB’s Hope Farm similarly described a Land Use Framework as a knowledge base that can help guide discussions around best use of land to maximise the benefits and minimise the disbenefits.  

During audience discussion, participants stressed the importance of centring community perspectives in land use strategies, and the need to increase access to resources to support land use decision making, and help support land use transition when best use is identified. In particular, the role of learning from exemplars and peers was raised, as well as the need for greater access to capital resource to help landowners make desired changes.  

Where do we go from here?  

We are in a nature and climate crisis. If we are to achieve our vision for a net zero, nature rich future that delivers good food and other public benefits, we need to be strategic in how we make the best use of our land. It’s clear that landowners, particularly farmers, will play an essential role in this land use transition. Land use strategies can help support decision making around best use of land, but local knowledge, access to information and public funding will be crucial to support landowners in making the most of these strategies to carry out land use transition on the ground.

Based on our session discussion, we’ve compiled some key resources that we hope you’ll find helpful to learn more about Land Use Frameworks, and how we make the best use of our land for a nature positive, good food, net zero future. Have a browse of these below!  

Couldn’t make it ORFC but want to catch up on what we discussed in the session? Have a listen to the session recording curtesy of FFCC here: Oxfords - Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (  

The People’s Plan for Nature is a UK-wide initiative powered by WWF, the National Trust and the RSPB. It is a unique, people-led collaboration to create a shared vision for nature in the UK. In January, assembly members gathered for a weekend of discussion examining how we use the land, fresh water and sea to meet our basic needs, with a particular focus on food production. You can check out some of the session recordings here, and visit the People’s Plan for Nature website to learn more and sign up for progress updates.  


Want to help save nature in your area and looking for support on how to engage with your local representative? Sign up for a free online support session 


Want to talk to your MP or Councillor about making better decisions about land in your area? 

Download and share this briefing about the Land Use Framework and how it can help better decisions. 

Find out more about the Land Use Framework  

Read the latest about how better decisions about land are being trialled. 


Further reading on land use strategies in the UK:  

Multifunctional landscapes | Royal Society 


Resources for how to manage land in a more nature-friendly way:  

Woodland Wildlife Toolkit ( 


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