18 September 1998

Neglect of hill farms admitted

JUNIOR environment minister Alan Meale has admitted that hill farmers have been left for "far too long to survive in a most unacceptable way", and promised the sector would no longer go unrecognised.

Speaking at the Association of National Park Authorities conference at Scarborough, East Yorks, Mr Meale said that he had made this point strongly to the EU Commission and the Treasury.

Responding to questions on the need for financial support to keep farmers in business within the parks, he said: "This government has had a commitment to hill sheep farmers for many years."

In a keynote speech he described the most important challenges for the future to be:

lCreating a reliable and sustainable public transport service in every national park.

lEncouraging community partnerships in rural areas.

lExploring imaginative ways of communicating with people from towns and cities.

lConsulting with local communities to ensure that services provided are in tune with what the public want and offer best value. &#42