17 November 1995

Countryside lobby group to speak up for country people

By Liz Mason

SIR David Steele, former Liberal Democrat leader, is to head a new countryside lobby group.

The Countryside Movement, launched on Thursday, with Sir David as its executive chairman, aims to become a campaigning voice for country people to counter threats to their way of life.

Working as an all-party movement it will speak to MPs, civil servants the media and other opinion-formers through campaigns, literature and direct contact.

It also aims to launch a "hard-hitting, sustained advertising campaign, which will seek to redress the breakdown in communication between town and country".

The movements charter outlines its objectives and stresses that it must maintain the "enthusiastic support and involvement of specialist countryside organisations".

"The Countryside Movement poses no threat to their purposes or to their membership. We seek from them a general endorsement of our objectives," it adds.

The charter says country people need a Countryside Movement because their way of life is now under siege. Opponents of country ways and values take issue with all aspects of the countrysides management of animals including live animal transport, hunting, livestock husbandry, shooting, fishing and national hunt racing.

"It is depressing, in Britain of all countries, to see the growth of a profoundly unsympathetic faction which seems to have no understanding of country people and the things for which they stand," it says.

"Their vision is apparently a sanitised countryside devoid of life as well as death – a theme park for which the urban dweller takes no responsibility, financial or other- wise, but through which he expects to wander freely at the weekend."

The charter says that for too long those who live in the countryside have allowed others to assume the moral high ground. "Although true country people are both guardians of animal welfare and responsible conservationists," it adds.

But the movement does not intend to appeal only to landowners and farmers. It also aims to provide a voice for the elderly, the disadvantaged and inarticulate.

Its charter recognises that unemployment, crime and drug abuse have become serious problems in parts of rural Britain as have declining rural services and rising house prices. &#42