19 January 2001

Rural leaders want results

QUESTIONS remain about the content of the rural white paper but countryside leaders are determined to make sure the government delivers on its promises.

Anthony Bosanquet, president of Country Land and Business Association, said it was up to the industry to make sure they were fulfilled. "Its our job to make sure they do it," he told a seminar organised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors last week.

Many leaders agreed that the paper had failed to give a real vision for agriculture. George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, said: "We wonder why we waited two years for this document. It has failed to bring agriculture into the debate."

A key issue that nearly all agreed had been neglected was the question of how to reward producers for environmental farming. Peter Nixon, director of estates for the National Trust said this was vital in order to help rural communities.

NFU vice-president Tim Bennett was concerned that farmers would have little time to carry out environmental work. "At the moment we are losing people at a dramatic rate and we are not getting people back in. If we are going to be land mangers and deliver environmental products then it will need people."

Away from farming, Moira Constable, chief executive of the Rural Housing Trust, said the paper would not address the lack of affordable homes in the countryside. Ministers appeared to promise more resources but the government had only agreed to restore money it had previously cut, she said.