Joint move tackles rural decline with new White Paper
By Jonathan Riley
MAFF and the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions are joining forces to tackle rural decline through a new rural White Paper.
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced the opening of the consultation period for the paper which is to be finalised next summer. The paper will set out how new policies will be tailored and integrated to reflect rural concerns and will dovetail with the governments urban white paper announced in October.
Mr Prescott said: "As the Rural Development Commissions most recent survey of rural services shows, many rural areas are very poorly provided for."
The RDC estimates that 70% of rural parishes have no general store, 43% have no post office, 75% have no daily bus service and 83% have no doctor based in the parish.
"Action is needed to improve life in many rural areas and for many rural people. The white paper will look at what needs to be done by government, other organisations and individuals," said Mr Prescott.
Farm minister Nick Brown said the paper would address concerns expressed by farmers, and the rural communities.
"It will set out how our policies will help them adapt to the continuing changes in the agricultural industry and establish the place of the rural communities and the countryside within our whole society. It will look at how they can contribute fully to the life of the country as a whole."
Among its many aims the paper is to consider how governments environmental, social and economic objectives can be integrated to ensure there is sustainable development in rural areas. And it will look at how rural areas can better contribute to society and a strong economy.
The proposals have been welcomed by countryside organisations.
Kate Parminter director of the Council for the Protection of Rural England said the paper should provide extra safeguards for the protection of the countryside. She added that it would stimulate a debate about how new development could meet social and economic needs while avoiding urban sprawl.
RDC policy director Margaret Clark said the government is increasingly taking the rural dimension into account and the paper signals the determination to ensure new policies will reflect rural concerns.
Country Landowners Association president Ian MacNicol said: "I am delighted that government is at last going to integrate its rural policies throughout all departments."