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New European proposals for driving rural development were welcomed ...
New European proposals for driving rural development were welcomed

today by rural affairs minister Alun Michael as a step in the right


The minister was launching an innovative web-based consultation

seeking views on a number of issues around the proposals, ahead of

formal negotiations beginning with European partners in September.

Mr Michael said:

'I am pleased that the proposals for the new Rural Development

Regulation are in step in many ways with one of the aims of the

government's Rural Strategy 2004 - to simplify rural funding streams.

In particular there is a proposal to target funding along three axes:

farm and forestry competitiveness, land management and environment,

and support for wider rural diversification.'

Under the current Rural Development Regulation Defra operates the

England Rural Development Programme, ten schemes to protect and

improve the countryside, develop sustainable enterprises and help

rural communities to thrive. The new Regulation will form the basis

of future rural development programmes across the EU from 2007 to


Mr Michael added that the UK government would prefer a greater

proportion of funding be allocated to the second axis - land

management and environment - than that currently suggested by the

commission, in order to contribute to wider EU environmental

objectives, and that the UK would want the commission to consider a

more equitable allocation of funding between member states.

He commented:

'We will engage robustly in the forthcoming negotiations to push for

a fair, objective criteria-based allocation of the available funding,

and a greater emphasis on environmental objectives.

'While we will be open to getting feedback to this consultation

through traditional channels, we would encourage people to make use

of the web-based system wherever possible to join the debate.

'Not only will it reduce the volume of paper needed for a full public

consultation, it offers the convenience of submitting comments

online, and gives access to a message board for exchanging views. It

will also enable us to analyse responses more quickly and ensure

those views can feed into the early negotiation stages.'

The consultation closes on 12 November 2004, but Defra is welcoming

responses well ahead of that date so that those views can be put

across in Europe early on.


1. The European Commission published its proposals for a new Rural

Development Regulation on 15 July

2004. The current Rural Development Regulation (1257/1999) is the

legal basis for the England Rural Development Programme which closes to applications at the

end of 2006. Rural Development Programmes for Scotland, Wales and

Northern Ireland are also operated under this Regulation. The new

draft proposals will form the basis for future rural development

programmes across the EU for the period 2007-2013.

2. The website for the consultation exercise, which also includes

links to relevant documents, regulations and background material is


3. The public consultation period will run from 17 August to 12

November 2004. Working group negotiations on the draft regulation

are expected to start in the autumn, and continue until summer 2005.

4. Where respondents do not wish to use the web based mechanism,

written responses can be sent by e-mail to They can be faxed on 020 7238 6902.

Telephone inquiries can be made to 020 7238 6112. Written responses

should be sent to Defra, Rural Development Division, Area 5C, Ergon

House, Horseferry Road, London. SW1P 2AL

5. The current England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) provides a

framework for the operation of 10 separate but integrated schemes

which provide new opportunities to protect and improve the

countryside, to develop sustainable enterprises and to help rural

communities to thrive. The schemes (and a brief outline of their

aims) are:

- Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas Schemes

(protecting landscapes and wildlife habitats, improving


- Organic Farming Scheme (promoting organic production).

- Hill Farm Allowance Scheme (supporting sustainable farming in the

English hills).

- Woodland Grant and Farm Woodland Premium Schemes (encouraging

planting of new woodland and maintenance of existing woodland).

- Energy Crops Scheme (encouraging renewable energy production).

- Rural Enterprise Scheme (supporting a diversified and enterprising

rural economy).

- Vocational Training Scheme (improving occupational skills of


- Processing and Marketing Grant (improving agricultural processing

and marketing infrastructure).

6. A total of£1.6bn of EU and Government money is being made

available under these schemes in England during the 7 years (2000 to

2006) of the programme.

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