New sustainability plans on College Estate

Merton College is a long-term steward of land and we take our responsibility seriously. Alongside our charitable obligation to manage our assets effectively, one of the primary objectives of our emerging sustainability strategy is to utilise our land holdings to improve sustainability and biodiversity across our portfolio.

Hall Farm, Begbroke, Oxfordshire, is a key pilot scheme of this strategy. We are moving away from agriculture that has a greater impact on the environment through use of pesticide and fertilizers, by developing stewardship programmes which will reduce the use of chemicals, enhance the carbon profile of the soil, cultivate diverse ecosystems, and produce renewable power.

For example, we are planting extensive wildflower meadows along with nectar and pollen rich species to support insects across the farm. This will enhance long term sustainability, biodiversity, and the abundance of wildlife. It will also support soil renewal, reduce the risk of soil erosion, and help limit local flooding risk. The remainder of the arable land will be planted to legume crops and grass to improve soil organic matter and sequestrate carbon.

Our approach has also identified that around 30% of Hall Farm is well suited to generating renewable energy. In discussion with other local landowners, Merton College has put forward this land for consideration as part of the wider Botley West Solar Farm project.

The case for renewable energy in this location is very strong and aligns with our broader sustainability objectives. We also recognise the importance of solar power both as a tool to deliver Net Zero, but also as a contributor to UK energy security.

Nevertheless, the College is neither the applicant nor the developer behind the Botley West project. In total, our land holding equates to around 5% of the total site.

We will continue to engage closely with all our partners to deliver long-term sustainability and biodiversity at Hall Farm, in line with our vision.