Posted by: dorsetcpre | September 30, 2010


Rt Hon Oliver Letwin Conservative MP for Rt West Dorset .by Oliver Letwin, MP – Minister of State in the Cabinet Office responsible for Government Policy

Unlike any administration in the recent past, the coalition has set out a full programme for government. This includes an agenda for the countryside. We start with an understanding of three vital facts about the countryside:

  1. It is a national treasure – a repository of beauty, unmatched by all the art galleries in Britain;
  2. It is ecologically critical – underpinning bio-diversity, vital to the water cycle, and a key component of carbon capture; and
  3. It is not a museum — but a network of crucially important and interlocking economies, which provide us with food, the most basic product of all and one whose security can no longer be taken for granted.

The coalition’s programme for government aims to translate each of these fundamental recognitions into practical policy.

To protect the beauty of the countryside, the document sets out radical measures to change the land use planning system – codifying the framework of protections afresh in a consistent national framework, subjecting major planning decisions to democratic control, abolishing regional spatial strategies, and giving local communities vastly more power to plan the shape of their own neighbourhoods.

The programme for government also contains radical commitments to protect the ecology of the countryside for future generations – with new measures to launch a national tree planning campaign, strengthen flood defence, use water more efficiently, reduce waste and litter, and protect wildlife by promoting wildlife corridors so that we can halt the loss of habitats and restore bio-diversity.

And the programme also contains a series of measures to improve and sustain the rural economy, with a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control, change in procurement policy to ensure that the public sector is buying food that meets British standards of production, radical reduction in the regulatory burden on farmers through a move away from endless inspections to a system of spot checks, and the development of a sensible and fair way of sharing between farmers and government the responsibility for dealing with outbreaks of disease.

All in all, for the first time in more than a decade, we have a government that regards the protection and enhancement of rural England not as an inconvenient after-thought, but as a central part of our nation’s agenda with a crucial role to play not only in terms of quality of life, but also as a key component to our commitment to strengthen our economy.

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