'These publications are a celebration of the diversity of our countryside and an important educational and planning aid for today and tomorrow. We have a unique legacy to bequeath to our children, a legacy not just of biodiversity, not just about scenery or history. The countryside is a very special part of our national heritage, a living legacy for our children and for future generations. Its future is our responsibility.'
He said that ministers, local councillors, regional development agencies, planners, landowners, developers and the new Countryside Agency now had a powerful resource to use in working towards a countryside which is socially, economically and environmentally healthy, for this and future generations.
He explained that these volumes were the next stage following the Character of England' map, developed jointly with English Nature and English Heritage two years ago. 'These new Countryside Character' publications should help planners and others bring about sustainable
development, using strategies, designs and materials that respect the character of the local countryside.'
'And the new Countryside Agency will inherit a programme of work for developing the countryside character approach, especially a User Network, for exchanging information on best practice, which anyone
can join,' he said.
Mr Smith said 'Unless we recognise and understand the special and local nature of the variety of character within England, we can never hope to protect it, conserve it or even put right some of the damage that may have been done to it. These publications are a significant contribution towards that deeper understanding.'
1. The Countryside Commission is the Government's countryside and landscape adviser. It aims to make sure that the English countryside prospers and is protected and that it can be used and enjoyed now and in the future.
2. The Countryside Character' series are being published in eight volumes, each based on one of England's government office regions. The first three, the North East, the North West and Yorkshire & Humber, are now published. Each of the 159 area descriptions in the eight volumes will have a standard format comprising: the key characteristics defining a sense of place'; the physical, historic and cultural influences; land cover; changes in the local countryside and suggestions for shaping the future. Copies of the volumes are available, price£15 each, from the Countryside Commission Postal Sales, PO Box 124, Walgrave, Northampton NN6 9TL, (tel 01604 781848).
3. From April 1999 the Countryside Commission and the Rural Development Commission will come together as The Countryside Agency with responsibility for advising government and taking action on issues relating to the environmental, economic and social well-being of the English countryside. At the same time, the RDC's rural regeneration work will transfer to the new regional development agencies.
4. The commission has its own web site, with details of commission meetings open to the public, at http://www.countryside.gov.uk.