6 October 1995

A surprise meeting of minds

THERE was a surprising meeting of minds between landowners and socialists at the Labour Partys conference in Brighton on Monday. Only Labours "right to roam" policy produced any real discord.

At a Country Landowners Association fringe meeting more stress was laid on how closely aligned the policies of the CLA and the Labour Party were becoming.

CLA president-elect Ewen Cameron said in the past the CLA by its very name was not a natural ally of the old Labour party. "However, I believe nowadays new CLA and new Labour have a lot in common."

The CLA and Labour shared a whole raft of policy objectives, he said. Those included championing balanced rural communities, promoting new housing opportunities and creating business and employment opportunities inside and outside agriculture.

"I believe the days of suspicious cordiality between us are now a fading memory and there is a huge opportunity for us to work together as allies to create a better, healthier and more vigorous countryside," he said.

But he added that landowners were worried about Labours right to roam policy for public access to the countryside.

He announced the CLA was setting up a working party to consider how public access could be extended. "We hope to come up with some means of managed access."

Shadow farm minister Gavin Strang renewed his Partys assurances that a right to roam would be coupled with a "duty to care for the countryside" to protect farmland, crops and livestock. Sherwood Labour MP Paddy Tipping appealed for the gap to be closed between the CLAs "managed" and Labours "permissive" access approach.

On rural housing there was another public display of agreement.

Labour delegates at the meeting applauded the CLAs declared hostility to the governments plan to extend the right to buy to rural housing association tenants. Such a policy would reduce the supply of housing to rent, deter landowners from making land available at low cost and make planning authorities cautious about new housing schemes.