7 September 2000
Help farmers diversify, planners urged

By FWi staff

PLANNERS must be more open to development in the countryside to encourage farmers to diversify, says the chief of a government rural watchdog.

Countryside Agency chief executive Richard Wakeford said too much emphasis is put on controlling development to preserve a countryside that no longer exists.

If the countryside is to have vitality in the future, people must be allowed to live and work their in places designed to reflect tomorrows needs.

Planners must enable the development which that vision demands, he told the town and country planning councillors summer school.

With farm incomes the lowest in living memory there needed to be a more positive attitude towards new uses for farm buildings no longer needed by agriculture, Mr Wakeford said.

It is a common view that the countryside should be reserved for its main business — agriculture, and that development in most villages should be severely restrained as it would inevitably spoil them and not be sustainable.

But Mr Wakefield said this failed to reflect the realities of modern farming, the need for new types work in rural areas, and the need to provide homes for the local young people.

Mr Wakeford admitted to the councillors that changing tack would not be easy.

I know this is a major challenge to you because many of your electors will have a nostalgic yearning for the countryside that is long gone. But you need to look forward.

Mr Wakeford later reinforced his message by joining forces with the Regional Development Agency to challenge planners to befriend farmers.

RDAs were set up by the government to be the focus of economic regeneration across both urban and rural areas.