Michael Gove has called on new housing developers in Bucks to consider the environmental impact of their building plans.
The secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs visited the Arla dairy in Aylesbury on December 4 and told The Bucks Herald that his department will ensure developments such as HS2 ultimately have a positive environmental impact.
He said: “One of the things we want to make sure is whenever development takes place, not only is there no loss to the environment but actually that there should be a gain.
“Of course, if you’re going to have new homes built or HS2 being developed then you lose some land, potentially some woodland, so we want to ensure that for every tree that we lose we have improved and increased planting elsewhere
“We also want to ensure that developers put money into improving the quality of the environment more broadly so that we can ensure that whether its woodland or other habitats we create the right environment for species to flourish and biodiversity to grow.”
“I think that any new housing development has to be sensitively planned and sited. One of the great things about this part of the world is that you have a balance: you’ve got good transport links and that’s why it’s a very attractive place to live, but also because the Chilterns and surrounding areas are so beautiful.
“One of the reasons they are so beautiful is because of the investment that farms make and we just need to make sure those two stay in balance. I know local MPs David Lidington and John Bercow and others will do everything that they can to make sure that that balance is maintained.”
Mr Gove met with Arla bosses, including site director at Arla Aylesbury Jo Taylor, this Monday. Together they discussed agricultural policy and the industry impact of any impending EU trade deal.
The latest estimate published by the government shows a 7.5% drop in total income for the nation’s farmers, extending a decline in earnings which began in 2011, but the cabinet minister understands the situation has improved since June last year.
“One of the striking things is, since the Brexit vote, farm incomes have increased after a period when they were going down” Mr Gove added, “There are new opportunities as a result of Britain leaving the European Union, new markets for UK farmers potentially to exploit, what we also want to ensure that we continue to have the best possible access to the European market.
“In the future we want to make sure that we continue to support farmers, but we want to make sure that more of the money that we allocate is there to help farmers who are pursuing the highest animal welfare standards or the highest environmental standards.
“We are committed to ensuring that the amount of money that we currently give to farmer’s support continues right up until 2022, and that is a firmer promise than farmers in other countries have and one we are determined to honour.”
The MP for Surrey Heath commended the dairy for it’s application of technology. “I’ve had a chance to look round the dairy and it was wonderful to be able to see the scale of investment that Arla has made here, it’s an amazing site, when we think of dairies I think that we’re inclined to think of milk churns and a vision of something from the 1930s to the 1950s.
“This is a state of the art business with robotics ensuring that milk is taken in its freshest possible state from the farm gate to our kitchen table, certainly to the supermarket or corner-shop and then our kitchen table.
“It’s amazing to see the degree of ingenuity and technical skills gone into getting fresh milk onto our tables as quickly and effectively as possible”
The agricultural robotics sector is expected to grow to be worth £13bn globally by 2020, according to research by US firm WinterGreen.
Speaking on the introduction of automation to UK farms, Mr Gove admitted that more mechanisation was expected in the future. He said: “I think it will be the case in the future, but it won’t be some years yet, that we will see more and more mechanisation and automation on our farms but ultimately there’s no substitute for the skill and judgement that an experienced farmer brings to making sure that we get the best out of the land.
“I think mechanisation in the future can help increase productively and also ensure that we have a lighter environmental footprint but ultimately you want that to be mechanisation at the service of the goods that we consider to be important like the environment, animal welfare and quality food.”