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The planning system must recognise growing pressure from the public and the farming community for alternative land ...
The planning system must recognise growing pressure from the public and the farming community for alternative land use, Welsh farmer John Lloyd-Jones told the National Planning Conference in Bournemouth this week.

Demand for access, recreation, development, leisure and solitude was growing steadily, he said. And new perceptions of the countryside were generating a public demand for change.

'When I started farming almost 30 years ago, wild flowers were called weeds,' he said. 'How many of us would have known what a mountain bike was 15 years ago, or a wind farm?

'How could we have known that telematics and desk-top publishing could allow magazines and periodicals to be published from a barn at the bottom of Snowdon?'

Mr Lloyd-Jones, who lives at Tywyn in Gwynedd, recently completed five years as chairman of NFU Wales, and has now become chairman of the NFU parliamentary land use and environment committee.

He posed two fundamental questions at the planning conference:

- What role will the planning process policy play in helping to secure a future for farming?

- What demands will farmers put upon planners?

'Farmers have been encouraged as a matter of government policy to consider other uses for their land apart from its traditional and primary use - that of food production,' he said.

'Some and unfortunately a growing number are being forced through economic pressure to find alternative and more profitable uses for their land as a means of ensuring their economic survival.'

These economic trends play no part in structure plans which can take more than two years to produce and a life of 10 years.

'Therefore the No 1 priority in drawing up a planning strategy for a 10-year period has to be flexibility. The problems you are seeking to control and solve now may be completely different from the problems you are seeking to control in 10 years' time,' he continued.

Changes in farming technology were presenting farmers with the greatest opportunities for alternative enterprises.

'Unless we can find alternative use for redundant farm buildings they will become an eyesore. And please let's not delude ourselves. In the majority of cases the main, if not the only use for these buildings, will be for holiday or permanent accommodation.

'There is a danger that we will stifle initiative in the countryside if we concentrate too much on one aspect of it - landscape,' he added.

'There is a real danger that by seeing the problem only in terms of landscape we overlook the far greater damage - of income being generated from the local economy and no benefit coming back to it.'

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