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
smallest parish council, in business and in the voluntary sector -
and demonstrate practical solutions to the challenges facing
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
Speaking at the launch, the new Countryside Agency chairman, Ewen
'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
- 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
The State of the Countryside 1999 report and Tomorrow's Countryside:
2020 vision are enclosed.
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.