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COMMISSION CHAIR ATTACKS CRITICS OF COUNTRY DEVELOPMENT

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Lord Shuttleworth, chairman of the Rural Development Commission, speaking at ACRE's Rural Life conference at Warwic...
Lord Shuttleworth, chairman of the Rural Development Commission, speaking at ACRE's Rural Life conference at Warwick University, called today for a positive and balanced approach to countryside planning.

'We need to respond to the changing needs and circumstances of rural people,' he said.

'They must have a voice in the debate. A countryside which does not evolve, does not address new changes, will die. At the same time we do not want it to be so developed and changed that its uniqueness and diversity are destroyed. And we want others to be able to visit it and enjoy it.'

Anticipating government consultation papers on planning in the countryside and planning for a forecast extra 4.4 million households by 2016, Lord Shuttleworth criticised those who opposed development by businesses unless they were crafts or land based and were against the building of extra homes in the countryside.

He argued that the rural economy had to change and grow if it was to provide both rewarding jobs for those who lived there and the resources needed to conserve the landscape.

Modern service and manufacturing businesses, due to new technology, could usually be accommodated in the countryside with little impact on the environment. More housing would also be needed because a significant proportion of the forecast demand would arise from the existing population in rural counties.

Painting a picture of what would happen in the countryside if all future growth of jobs and housing were forced to be accommodated in the towns, Lord Shuttleworth said 'with no new development house prices would inevitably rise and those on lower incomes would be squeezed out. The sons and daughters or partners of existing residents (some of the 4.4m projected new households) would have to move to the towns.'

'Resentment would build up between those unlucky enough to have to live in the increasingly overcrowded towns and those who got out at the right time or could buy themselves out. There are some very real tensions and difficulties over how and who should shape the future of our rural areas,'

Lord Shuttleworth concluded. 'But decisions taken over the next few years in key policy areas will determine the future of the countryside, its environment, its landscape and its people for several decades to come, and the way in which some of the fundamental issues are resolved could set a course which may prove very hard to alter.'

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