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AG2  The Protection of Best Quality Agricultural Land  Policy

In order to protect Wirral’s best and most versatile agricultural land, proposals involving the non-agricultural use of land classified within Grade 1, Grade 2 and sub-Grade 3a of the MAFF Agricultural Land Classification must, before permission is granted, demonstrate the extent to which it would be practicable to return the land to its former quality if the development took place.

In assessing the scope for a future return to the best quality agricultural land, particular regard will be paid to:

(i) the siting and extent of hard development proposed; and
(ii) the extent and depth of disturbance to soil structure.

Reasoned justification :

12.10 Policy AGR1 provides for the protection of Wirral's best and most versatile agricultural land. Policy AG2 re-iterates this principle and sets out the detailed criteria that the Local Planning Authority will apply when dealing with individual planning applications. The objective of Policy AG2 is to prevent the unnecessary and permanent loss of good quality agricultural land which otherwise, if made available for use by the farming community, could continue to be farmed productively with few constraints.

12.11 The Agricultural Land Classification devised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food grades the quality of agricultural land to reflect its productive capacity. Land falling within Grade 1, Grade 2 and sub-Grade 3a is recognised to be the most productive and flexible land in the Country. It is best suited to adapt to the changing needs of agriculture and is, therefore, considered to be a resource of national importance. National planning policy guidance indicates that considerable weight should be given to protecting such land from development and from other uses which would prevent a return to best quality agricultural use.

12.12 In Wirral, over half the land currently used for agricultural purposes is classified within Grade 1, Grade 2 and sub-Grade 3a, and its distribution throughout the Borough is illustrated on Map 2. Land of this quality is of prime importance for the future of farming in Wirral and is therefore specified for protection within Policy AG2. The only exception is where proposals for non-agricultural uses would not preclude a return to agricultural use at some time in the future.

12.13 The most important factors for retaining the potential value of the land for agriculture are the minimisation of hard development and the prevention of damage to soil structure. These are identified within Policy AG2 as factors to which the Local Planning Authority will pay special regard when assessing whether a return to best quality agricultural use can be realistically safeguarded.