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High-quality Grade 1 and 2 Farmland

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 26 November 2020

What proportion of agricultural land owned by the Church of England is high-quality grade 1 and 2 farmland. (909345)

Approximately 35,000 acres of land owned by the Church Commissioners is high-quality grade 1 and 2 farmland, representing 39% of the overall agricultural portfolio. Information on diocesan land holdings is not held by the Church Commissioners.

I thank the hon. Member for that answer. At the last Church Commissioners questions, he said to me that he strongly wanted to see more trees planted on the Church estate, but that most of the rural estate is high-quality agricultural land and is therefore not suitable. He has just said that 39% is high-grade agricultural land. Does that not mean there is an awful lot of other land on which the Church could plant trees and help meet the Government’s commitment to increasing woodland cover?

As I think I said at the last questions, I commend the hon. Lady for raising this issue and, indeed, for returning to it today, and I genuinely welcome her scrutiny. More than 60% of our farmland is let on secure agricultural tenancies, with the rest on tenancies under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995. Both of those limit our ability to intervene directly. However, we do encourage our tenants to farm sustainably and join environmental stewardship schemes to plant trees and hedgerows wherever possible. In addition, we are undertaking a natural capital assessment, which will provide a baseline and trajectory of progress towards achieving lower carbon outputs.