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COUNTRYSIDE AGENCY CALLS FOR RURAL TAX BREAKS

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The new Countryside Agency, which came into operation yesterday, has suggested that tax incentives could be used to...
The new Countryside Agency, which came into operation yesterday, has suggested that tax incentives could be used to encourage an increase in affordable homes in rural communities.

The agency, formed from the merger of the Countryside Commission and Rural Development Commission, aims to tackle rural poverty, improve transport in rural areas, promote greener farming methods and improve access to the countryside.

In its inaugural report, the agency warns rural Britain is under threat from big increases in housebuilding and traffic.

Other ideas under consideration by the body are a national hotline to publicise rural transport services and greater use of postal, school and company buses to help people living in isolated communities - particularly the jobless and low-paid - to get to the nearest towns.

Ewen Cameron, the agency's chairman, is determined that countryside issues are given top priority within the government. He is also keen to ensure that Whitehall departments introduce 'rural-proofing' in every new policy so that their impact on rural communities will be taken into account.

He also suggested that planning officers should be lobbied to refuse permission for new clusters of 'executive' homes in villages and to approve only plans that included a larger number of cheaper houses. About 91,000 rural homes were lost form the low-cost rented sector between 1985 and 1990.

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