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Rural Statement: It’s not JUST the economy stupid

Thursday, 13 September 2012 20:55

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September 13 2012

Rural campaigners have welcomed the long awaited publication of the Government’s Rural Statement but here at CPRE Sussex we are are disappointed by the sidelining of environmental issues.

As Neil Sinden, Director of Policy and Campaigns at CPRE, says: “It is encouraging to see the Statement makes clear that all of Government and not just the ‘rural department’ have responsibility for the countryside. “We support and welcome Ministers’ commitment to improving opportunities for walking and cycling in the countryside and to making sure there is sufficient rural affordable housing. We would really like to see more genuine action in these areas. “However, as with much of current Government thinking, the statement is limited by its assumption that economic development is unrelated to the natural environment.

“Only by putting the environment at the centre of measures to achieve social and economic progress will the Government help to support a sustainable future for rural areas.”

Specifically, CPRE is disappointed to see the Statement does not consider how measures such as moves by the Department for Communities and Local Government to liberalise permitted development rights on agricultural buildings could irreversibly damage rural landscapes and tranquillity, an issue we have previously highlighted on the CPRE Sussex website.  

Support for local food offers a great opportunity for the sustainable development of rural economies, but disappointingly is not covered by the Statement. CPRE research into local food webs estimated that the value of local food sales from independent food outlets is £2.7bn annually. Greater support for local food also offers a wealth of other benefits including more robust local shops and locally distinctive landscapes.

Neil Sinden concluded, “Some of the recent misinformed attacks on the planning system from the Treasury and elsewhere show that the Government has some way to go in understanding that a healthy economy and environment go hand in hand.

“The new team of Ministers at the DEFRA has a great opportunity to ensure that rural growth and development enhance the very things that make our countryside so special; it’s beautiful open landscapes, tranquillity and dark skies, and its distinctive villages.”

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