28 November 2000
Farmers lukewarm on Rural Paper
By FWi staff
FARMERS leaders have given a lukewarm reaction to the long-awaited Rural White Paper, which outlines the governments proposals for the countryside.
The document, including proposals to help farmers diversify by relaxing planning rules, was unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott on Tuesday (28 November).
But Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers Union, said there was still much work to be done before the rural blueprint could be turned into a prosperous reality.
“Everyone involved must acknowledge something vital – that the proposals will only work against the background of a thriving British farming industry,” he said.
The Tenant Farmers Association said that the paper lacked any comprehensive thinking on the long-term future of Britains rural areas and tenant farmers.
George Dunn, TFA chief executive, said: “The government continue to peddle the old line that farming should become more competitive while also providing greater public benefits which add costs that cannot be recovered in the marketplace.”
Anthony Bosanquet, president of the Country Landowners Association, said that the amended planning laws would create much-needed job opportunities.
But he warned: “As always, brave words are only the first step. A sea-change in attitude is required in planning offices across the country.”
The also document pledges 8.7 million for Britains smallest abattoirs, threatened with extinction because they are struggling to pay meat-hygiene inspection costs.
Up to 200 organisations have campaigned on behalf of the abattoirs, including organic farmers because smaller plants often process organically reared livestock.
Bob Kennard, campaign co-ordinator of the Soil Association, said it looked like recommendations are going to be implemented in full. “It is tremendous news.”
Other plans will give mandatory rate relief to more village shops, pubs and garages. More affordable housing and better public transport have been pledged.
In a move to protect the countryside and save wildlife, councils will be encouraged to build on already used brownfield land rather than greenfield sites.
Kate Parminter, director of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, said the paper was a cautious but well-founded start to a better deal for rural communities.
“In a rapidly changing world the countryside needs a clear political route-map for the future,” she added. “The Rural White Paper begins to provide this.”
David Arnold-Foster, chief executive of English Nature, the governments wildlife advisor, said Britains rich variety of wildlife and habitats would be boosted.
“It signals the governments intent to use wildlife as a positive asset which plays an important role in rural economies,” he said.