New pilot project will examine land use

A LAND-USE pilot scheme for the Borders has been welcomed by senior local planning officials and councillors.

Speaking last week, Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, announced the Land Use Strategy (LUS) pilot, which will consider how land is currently used and where improvements can be made in an innovative and ground breaking way.

The LUS seeks a more integrated approach to land management in recognition of the increasing number of pressures and demands placed upon the region’s natural assets.

It is underpinned by an ecosystems approach which aims to balance the conservation of natural resources and maintaining essential functions such as the provision of clean water, with the way these are used to provide essentials such as food and timber.

The Scottish Government is keen that the process is led by local authorities and SBC believes this needs to be done in conjunction with land managers and other relevant stakeholders and will therefore be working closely with the Tweed Forum, a partnership body dedicated to integrated land and water management.

Councillor Ron Smith (Hawick & Hermitage LD), SBC executive member for planning and the environment, said participating in the strategy pilot will provide an exciting opportunity for the council to help rural businesses and communities and provide potential opportunities to tap into rural development cash.

Rob Dickson, director of environment and infrastructure at the local authority, added: “We hope that this innovative pilot can support our communities by developing a focused programme of rural development, working with the Scottish Government and enabling the council to develop and implement policies which support economic growth, but also protect the environment and available natural resources.

“That is an ongoing challenge for us here in the Borders and this pilot is a most welcome opportunity to improve how we are able to manage these pressures.”

Bob Kay, chair of Tweed Forum, said his organisation had a “good track record” of working with farmers and land managers.

He told us: “We have demonstrated that habitat restoration can be integrated effectively into farming systems with knock on benefits for biodiversity, water quality, flood attenuation, fisheries and carbon sequestration, to name but a few.”

He added: “This pilot initiative will help us explore this philosophy further with all the relevant stakeholders that have an interest in land and water management in the Borders.”