What matters to people about the future of the UK landscape? A public dialogue on the future of land-use

Policymakers and land managers will need to consider the public’s views both of long-term risks and the immediate impacts upon their everyday lives, according to a major new public dialogue project by Ipsos MORI for the Royal Society.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Castell Head of Futures
  • Michael Clemence Public Affairs
  • Matt Reynolds Public Affairs
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Land use policy in the UK is at a critical point. UK Government commitments to reducing carbon emissions and halting biodiversity loss coupled with the potential for large-scale agriculture and environmental policy changes as a result of Brexit means that decisions made now will have wide-ranging impacts; not only on what land in the UK might be used for but also what the countryside will look like – potentially for decades.

To inform a long-term vision for how the country manages its land, the Royal Society has begun its Living Landscapes policy programme. As part of this they commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct an online participatory futures dialogue on the future of the UK’s land use between August and November 2020.

This involved:

  • Building three scenarios of the UK landscape in 2035 for use in discussions
  • Four reconvened online workshops with participants from areas across the UK
  • An online community for all 100 participants from the groups
  • Mobile app diaries with farmers to gain insight into their lives

Headline findings

Participants initially saw land as the backdrop to their lives but as the dialogue progressed, their views changed. By the end, they identified two defining factors when considering the win-wins and trade-offs of different land-uses – long-term importance and immediacy to their everyday lives.

Attitudes to land use are shaped by personal values. The report outlines six personas which are based on values as much as they are on whether a person lives in an urban or rural area, or demographic factors such as age, nation or social grade.

The three scenarios of land use in the UK were brought to life through physical stimulus designed by The Liminal Space. Participants wanted to know how government and policy might support people to transition from the way they live their lives now to the very different lifestyles required by the three scenarios. While there was wide interest in making changes to diet and personal lifestyle, this needs to be met with help and advice that links individual actions to a narrative of a wider UK and global endeavour.

The report also includes a set of recommendations for policymakers and land managers to help design mechanisms for land use decision-making that build on an understanding of the public’s views.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Castell Head of Futures
  • Michael Clemence Public Affairs
  • Matt Reynolds Public Affairs

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