Skip to content

 Understanding Environmental Knowledge Controversies

Rural Land Management

Conflicting priorities in rural land usage

Rural areas in the UK are in the throes of considerable change. This is marked by tensions between i) the differing priorities and perspectives of stakeholders and policy makers, ii) multiple, sometimes competing, demands placed on the land by "traditional" users (e.g. agriculture) and the "new" users (e.g. tourism and recreation), and iii) friction between environmental and economic imperatives.

Such controversies are exacerbated by the fact that, on any "side" of a dispute, the stakeholders involved have different and often incommensurable priorities, none of which have a monopoly on the public interest.

One of the emerging sources of conflict is over whether or not rural land management has a role to play in reducing downstream river problems such as flooding and pollution. Whilst the scientific basis for links between land management, pollution and river water quality is becoming well-established, those between land management and flood risk remain scientifically controversial. This scientific controversy is bound up with social controversy as to whether or not land management really does deliver flood risk protection as compared with more traditional flood defence approaches.