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As thousands of people return home from Sunday's countryside march, sitting ...
As thousands of people return home from Sunday's countryside march, sitting

on coaches and trains with others from their own local communities - they

should ask themselves what next?

Speaking on the eve of the march, Ewen Cameron, chairman of the Countryside

Agency and rural advocate, said: 'It is vital that the broad concerns of

rural communities are not obscured by the hunting debate, and that their

concerns over affordable housing, the delivery of rural services and

transport are not lost in the noise of the march.

'To meet those concerns means work for rural communities themselves as well

as for policy makers. The challenge for rural people returning after the

countryside march will be to turn their energy and commitment into positive

action to build on the strength of their communities and help themselves.

By working with the Countryside Agency and others to identify local

priorities, people from rural communities can help revitalise their towns

and villages,' he said.

Why do country people feel rural life is eroding? Do they know what their

community needs to thrive in the future? If not, a parish or town plan

could help them have a greater say in their own affairs and the future of

their town or village.

If they do know what they need, grants are available to help improve or

introduce new services from child care schemes to help for a village shop.

Or if their community is isolated, they could get support for small scale

projects such as moped pools, taxi buses and minibus brokerage schemes.

More than£14m has already been invested through the agency's vital

villages initiative in grants for plans and services since Margaret Beckett

launched it 15 months ago to help rural communities throughout England. If

local people can get together and raise say£2,500 to kickstart a project

to help their community, the Countryside Agency can offer a range of advice

and turn it into a£10,000 investment.

Mr Cameron continued: 'The Rural White Paper was a real step forward and

much has already been achieved. The challenge for Government now is to

ensure continuing rapid progress against the remaining policy commitments.

In particular, the flexibility to respond to new circumstances is the best

way to demonstrate its commitment to the countryside.'


1. The public can find out more about grants for parish and town plans,

community services, parish transport and rural transport partnerships by

getting an application pack, including guidance and sources of additional

help and advice, from our vital villages call centre on 0870 333 0170 or

check out the Countryside Agency website. Case studies available.

2. The Countryside Agency is responsible for advising government and taking

action on issues relating to the social, economic and environmental

well-being of the English countryside.

3. The Rural White Paper, Our Countryside: the Future, was published in

November 2000.DEFRA maintains and updates an implementation plan for the

policy commitments made in the rural white paper, which can be viewed on

their website.

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