26 April 2001
Think rural, Whitehall told

By Isabel Davies

GOVERNMENT departments have been given a rural checklist to help make sure they think about the countryside when they make policy decisions.

The Countryside Agency has drawn up the list in a bid to stop policymakers from taking decisions only from an urban perspective.

Agency chairman Ewen Cameron said policies tended to be developed from the view of the majority, and problems solved using urban solutions.

“This is not deliberate, but at best means that the special circumstances of rural areas are overlooked,” he said.

“At worst, those who live and work in the countryside lose out, or are adversely affected by policies and programmes which do not reflect their needs.”

Environment minister Michael Meacher said: “The Rural White Paper committed the government to think rural across all its policies.”

He added: “This checklist … will play an important part in mainstreaming rural thinking across government.”

The list is divided into 14 distinctive rural characteristics which remind policy makers of key issues that need consideration.

It points out that rural areas do not have many service outlets like libraries or job centres, so different ways of delivering services are needed.

It also suggests that, because the countryside is mostly made up of small firms, policies must not benefit or hinder smaller companies.

“If it works, it will mean that the quality of life in the countryside will be better for those who live there, work there or visit it,” said Mr Cameron.

“Recent events have highlighted the need for a greater understanding of how and awareness of how the countryside operates,” he added.