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NEW AGENCY FOR TOMORROW'S ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE

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A new Countryside Agency to champion the English countryside and ...
A new Countryside Agency to champion the English countryside and

tackle real rural priorities was launched yesterday.

This new statutory body will focus on the social, economic and

environmental well-being of the English countryside. It will

champion the rural dimension at all levels - from Brussels to the

smallest parish council, in business and in the voluntary sector -

and demonstrate practical solutions to the challenges facing

tomorrow's countryside.

To mark the launch, the Countryside Agency published its vision

for the future and reviews the current state of the English

countryside. The State of the Countryside 1999 report is the first

overview of facts and trends about Englands rural areas to be

compiled.

Speaking at the launch, the new Countryside Agency chairman, Ewen

Cameron, said:

'In our first year, we will take a fresh look at the future of the

countryside and our role in shaping that.

'Many people believe the countryside is threatened as never before

and that it has changed for the worse in the last 20 years. Around

our biggest cities, the character of the countryside is being swamped

by suburban pressures; elsewhere the special character of Areas of

Outstanding Natural Beauty is being eroded through changes in farming

practices; the downturn in farming income is hitting the more remote

counties from Cumbria to Cornwall; and the decline of mining has left

physical and social dereliction in the Durham, Nottinghamshire and

South Yorkshire countryside.

'There are no quick fixes. Other priorities may emerge through the

government's Rural and Urban White Paper processes. There is no

doubt that the Countryside Agency has a wide and challenging agenda.

We look forward to developing an integrated approach with government,

businesses and communities to promote a living, working countryside

which has thriving rural communities and to ensure a high quality

countryside in the 21st century that everyone can enjoy.'

Top priorities for the Countryside Agency are to:

- show how to tackle rural disadvantage

- improve transport in rural areas while taming the impact of traffic

growth

- demonstrate a more sustainable approach to agriculture

- increase the amount and quality of access to the countryside

The Countryside Agency starts off with a staff of 380 working around

the country and some£50m a year in government grant-in-aid.

This includes an extra£5.5m funding to start important new

initiatives on tackling social exclusion in rural areas, extending

public access to the countryside and providing additional support for

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

The State of the Countryside 1999 brings together information about

rural communities, the rural economy, the landscape and access to the

countryside in England. This report and the booklet Tomorrows

Countryside: 2020 vision are available from the Countryside Agency

Postal Sales, PO Box 124, Walgrave, Northampton NN6 9TL Tel: 01604

781848 or Fax:01604 781027. From 1st April, visit our website at

http://www.countryside.gov.uk

Note

The State of the Countryside 1999 report and Tomorrow's Countryside:

2020 vision are enclosed.

Background:

The Countryside Agency takes over responsibility for advising

government and taking action on issues relating to the social,

economic and environmental well-being of the English countryside

following the merger of the Countryside Commission and the Rural

Development Commission (RDC) - announced by deputy prime

minister John Prescott, on 27th March 1998.

The Countryside Commission, originally the National Parks

Commission,was created following the National Parks & Access to the

Countryside Act in 1949. It developed its current role as the

government's landscape and countryside adviser under the 1968

Countryside Act. It aimed to make sure the English countryside was

protected and could be used and enjoyed now and in the future.

The RDC was first established as the Development Commission by Lloyd

George in his People's Budget of 1909 to tackle the problems

resulting from industrialisation and the mechanisation of

agriculture. It has been the government agency with responsibility

for promoting the economic and social well-being of the people who

live and work in rural England. Its rural regeneration work will

transfer to the new regional development agencies on 1st April 1999.

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