20 October 1995

Its welcome but will deeds follow words?

MOST rural organisations, including the NFU and the Country Landowners Association gave the White Paper a broad welcome.

CLA president Hugh Duberly stated: "We are delighted with the tone and pleased with the commitment."

But all are waiting to see what action follows, and several insist the words must be matched by new money.

The Wildlife Trust says expanding the stewardship scheme to include only 10% of the unimproved grasslands, heaths, wetland and coastal habitats will need at least £20m.

NFU fears

One of the NFUs main worries is over the proposal to allow county councils to keep 90% of the proceeds from the sale of county farms. Like the Family Farmers Association, it fears the move could encourage the sales of these holdings and decrease opportunities for new entrants.

Countryside Commission chairman Richard Simmonds describes the White Paper as "The challenge of a lifetime", while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds sees the stewardship expansion as a "lifeline" for saving endangered birds and a "golden opportunity to reverse 50 years of environmental destruction". &#42