THE REVD Dr Stuart Burgess, a senior Methodist minister, has been appointed the chair of the Countryside Agency and the government‘s new Rural Advocate.

The appointment was announced by DEFRA minister Margaret Beckett on Monday ( 13 September 2004).

Dr Burgess, recently chair of the York and Hull Methodist district, will help lead the agency during a period of change following the launch of the government‘s rural strategy in July.

Mrs Beckett said: “Dr Burgess‘s knowledge and experience of social issues and rural communities will be invaluable in the role of chair and Rural Advocate.  He will bring fresh insight to the work of the Countryside Agency.”

“I look forward to working with Dr Burgess and all members of the Countryside Agency team as they continue to develop the government‘s rural strategy, against the background of the new evidence becoming available about the nature and complexity of the rural economy.”

Dr Burgess said: “This post is challenging, and it is one I am delighted to take on. The Countryside Agency is going through a period of change. 

“Its role remains vitally important to rural communities, and I hope to steer the organisation with energy and vision.”

“People who live in rural communities face a range of difficulties which are not experienced by those who live in urban areas.

“As Rural Advocate, I intend to make sure their concerns are heard at the heart of Government.”

As part of the government‘s new rural strategy, a new Countryside Agency will be created by April 2005 as a small and re-focused organisation, acting as an expert watchdog and advocate on behalf of rural communities, especially those suffering disadvantage.

Pam Warhust, who has been leading the agency as acting chair since April, will remain deputy chair.