RURAL MATTERS: Regeneration, not devastation

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The announcement of the snap election on June 8 caught everyone on the hop and campaigning groups quickly set about dusting off their manifestos to try to influence party policies.

The CPRE was no different. The Lincolnshire branch is part of a strong national organisation, which has campaigned very successfully for 90 years and regularly manages to influence new legislation affecting the countryside.

You will have your own views about what the new Government should do for us over the next Parliament. As far as the countryside is concerned, our manifesto for the new government to take on board is: -

Stronger protection for Green Belts, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (such as The Wolds). Although Lincolnshire is a rural county, parts of it are under threat.

I was interviewed for local radio and TV last week about a 200-acre site on the coast that the local council has given planning permission for more than a thousand caravans and other business uses.

The land was protected by the council’s own planning policy, but they swept that aside in favour of development. Designation doesn’t necessarily guarantee protection, but we think it should.

Let’s regenerate before building on green fields.

Regenerating our towns and cities, especially vacant, derelict or underused “brownfield” sites, benefits both town and countryside.

On one hand, it provides much-needed homes and jobs close to existing services, infrastructure and work, on the other, it relieves pressure for development on open land and in rural areas that are vital for agriculture, nature, and our physical and mental well-being.

Continued investment for farming. A post Brexit worry, but we need continued public funding for farming which needs to become more diverse if we are to be resilient in terms of food and environment, reversing the decline in nature, in soils and in landscapes.

But we need a new funding model that rewards wider public benefit, sustaining the production of our varied and delicious local food while providing beautiful countryside, abundant nature and recreational opportunities.

Reset roads policy with a smarter travel investment strategy. My column last month looked at how road investment had not achieved the expected benefits.

Rather than seeking to triple road spending, we think the next Government should commit to overhauling transport policy in favour of a better integrated and sustainable approach. This could include investment in existing public transport systems, with restored rail routes and integrated bus services, and a renewed focus on cycling and walking.

Reduce waste and pollution. Litter continues to deface our beautiful countryside, yet valuable materials such as glass, plastic and aluminium are used in the manufacture of many products designed only for single use. Without efficient recycling, these resources are wasted and end up polluting our fields, woods and streams. We have all got used to the carrier bag charge and saved thousands of tons of waste, so why not look at other areas, such as drinks bottle recycling.

Transpose all EU environmental protections into domestic law. The environment is one of the winners in decades of EU law-making and we believe all these policies should be retained post Brexit and built upon by setting strong anti-pollution rules, resource-efficiency standards, and measurable milestones for the future.