Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Countryside Revival

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Countryside Revival

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson Environment Editor

Sweeping reforms which aim to improve the lot of the countryside and rural communities in the region were unveiled yesterday.

They include measures to abolish rules surrounding 100 currently separate schemes which provide rural funding for everything from farming and land management to country businesses and communities.

The Government's Rural Strategy 2004 builds on the findings by Lord Haskins last November on how services to rural areas could be improved.

He concluded that the current system was too confusing, too bureaucratic and too centralised.

The new strategy's priorities will be social and economic regeneration and supporting enterprise in rural areas, providing fair access to services and opportunities for all rural people and protecting the natural environment.

Funding for schemes and access to them will be streamlined and simplified. It will mean more say at a North-East level, allowing decisions to better reflect the needs and pressures in the region.

From April 2005, decision-making and funding for economic and social rural regeneration will be taken on by One NorthEast.

It will absorb the rural social and economic work currently carried out by the Countryside Agency and also by 2007 economic and social funding from Defra's rural development programme.

It is likely to mean a 50pc increase in Defra funding for One NorthEast, which already spends tens of millions of pounds a year on rural projects.

The job of ensuring a healthy countryside which is valued and used in a sustainable way will be the task of a new and powerful integrated agency which will be brought into being by legislation by around 2007.

It will bring together English Nature, parts of the Countryside Agency and most of Defra's Rural Development Service including agri-environment schemes with the aim of protecting and enhancing the natural environment, biodiversity and landscape while realising benefits for people through improving access and recreation. …

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