Image source: GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0
The UK needs a new Land Use Analysis Taskforce supported by a stronger data infrastructure to support decisions on how land is used, according to a new report from the Geospatial Commission.
Titled Finding Common Ground, the report is focused on how data science, technology and innovation can support decision making to protect the environment and meet the needs of communities.
It says that by bringing together large amounts of data it is possible to model wide ranging scenarios and produce visualisations to support local engagement and identify new opportunities for multifunctional land use.
“Land use models - from digital maps that show land use change over time, to predictive and scenario based models that incorporate algorithms to demonstrate alternative futures - bring together and visualise land use datasets,” the report says. “This can help us to spatially assess a range of economic, environmental and social factors to support decisions about the best use of land.
“The UK has a wide array of high quality datasets about land, which have been vastly enhanced by advances in earth observation technologies including satellites and environmental sensors. But challenges exist around integrating the multitude of datasets, bridging analysis across different sectors and spatial scales, and making better links between technical expertise and decision makers who own land or influence how it is used.”
Assess competing demands
One of its recommendations is for the creation of the taskforce supported by a shared spatial evidence base. It would assess the potential to reconcile competing demands for how land is used to meet national priorities, such as those relating to infrastructure, housing, agriculture and the environment.
The second is to champion the market for decision support and visualisation tools to help landowners, managers and local communities understand the opportunities for multifunctional land use.
Another is to strengthen the links between land use policy design, academic research and industry practices, reflecting the fact that quantifying the economic and non-economic value of land is a complex process but would be highly important.
Finally, a standard taxonomy should be developed for key land use data to support improvements in interoperability. The report says a common data product specification, building on a prototype developed under the National Land Data Programme, could help to encourage, coordinate and track improvements to key data.
Need for smart choices
Viscount Camrose, minister for AI and intellectual property at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “Land is fundamental for how we live our lives - it produces the food we eat, supports ecosystems that we rely on for clean air and fresh water, and provides the space for us all to live and work in. As we face new economic and environmental pressures, we need to make smart choices to get the best from our land.
“We should capitalise on advances in data science and modelling technologies to help us bring together data from a range of sources, and present it accessibly, in order to support better use of land.”
The Geospatial Commission has previously launched the National Land Data Programme, which has explored key land use challenges and demonstrated where innovative data analysis and evidence can support better land use decisions.