29 November 2000
Rural White Paper #&151; what the papers say
By FWi staff
THE Governments long-awaited rural White Paper which was released on Tuesday (28 November) is given a mixed reception in the morning newspapers.
The Independent says the white paper is all the better for focusing on a few sensible ideas rather than attempting to deliver a macho vision for the countryside.
It praises indications that local authorities may relax planning restrictions to allow farmers to sell land for housing and use the capital to diversify.
But it says the Government curiously neglected the booming organic and farmers market sectors in its blueprint for the future of the countryside.
The Guardian says the paper “does its honest best” to address the complaints of rural communities which feel alienated by the Labour Government.
But it notes that a report carried out by the Countryside Agency found that poverty was worse in urban rather than rural areas.
It speculates that farmers will be unimpressed by assistance towards diversification, especially into tourism, as “it is hard enough already to find enough holidaymakers to fill them”.
The Daily Telegraph says the white paper is “not exactly a bad document, even though…it turns out to be a good deal longer on bureaucracy rather than on actual proposals”.
While farmers need Government commitment to cut red tape, the paper offers bureaucracy and the internet, says the newspaper.
The Times calls the whit paper “a curious hybrid” which is at once “excessively interventionist and too modest”.
For while bureaucratic precision is brought to efforts to improve services and amenities, little space is devoted to agriculture, it argues.
Daily Express> columnist Peter Oborne says the report is “a genuine attempt by an urban-oriented Government to remedy some of the wrongs it has inflicted on rural people”.
“A damp squib” containing a “mish-mash of old ideas of variable quality” is how the Daily Mail describes the paper.
It claims the decision to end a tax rebates on second rural homes is “a mean-spirited attack on the middle classes and wont do very much for rural areas”.
But The Mirror welcomes the white paper, saying it makes a start on the huge task to restore the rural economy.