Send cash to hills, says rural chief

29 March 1999

Send cash to hills, says rural chief

By FWi staff

THE governments new countryside boss has called for a more sustainable and environmentally-aware approach to agriculture.

Ewen Cameron, chairman of the Countryside Agency, said subsidies for large arable farms should probably be cut and redirected to the hills.

Mr Cameron was speaking this morning (Monday) at the launch of the agency in London

He said he was concerned that public expenditure on agri-environment schemes in the United Kingdom was lower than in most European Union countries.

Agri-environment schemes cover only 7% of the utilised agricultural area in the UK, compared with 19% in France and 37% in Germany.

Mr Cameron said the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) should be changed, because currently only 3% of its budget is spent on funding green farming systems.

“The big problem is that the recent Agenda 2000 deal has in all short-term probability decreased the amount of money for environmental schemes,” he said.

“Quite personally, I would like to see 30% of CAP money put into environmental schemes, but that is a personal view, of course.”

The Countryside Agency is the governments new statutory body aimed at getting the best for rural England and the English countryside.

It was formed from the merger of the now-defunct Countryside Commission and the Rural Development Commission.

The remit of the agency is to “focus on the social, economic and environmental well-being of the English countryside”.

Mr Cameron said nine pilot schemes were already up and running to examine the impact of redirecting money away from the lowlands towards upland England.

A further three schemes will study the effect of transferring subsidies away from lowland places like East Anglia to upland areas like the Lake District.

In addition to promoting a more sustainable approach to farming, the agency hopes to tackle the disadvantages faced by rural people.

It aims to improve transport in rural areas, while taming the impact of traffic growth on the countryside.

But the agencys most controversial role is likely to be the implementation of a statutory “right to roam” across four million acres of open countryside.

Ramblers have criticised Mr Camerons appointment to oversee footpath-mapping because he is a former president of the Country Landowners Association (CLA).

During his time at the CLA, Mr Cameron opposed a statutory right to roam, saying landowners should grant countryside access only on a voluntary basis.

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