Opinion Former

Countryside Alliance: Coalition's first 100 days

The Coalition Government has made a positive start to addressing the challenges facing rural communities.

In our Rural Manifesto launched ahead of the General Election we highlighted some key areas such as food and farming, housing, transport, services, education and country pursuits, and made recommendations, which we believe are essential to ensure a future for rural communities. Those issues and many of the recommendations have been recognised by the new Government and are reflected in recent decisions and the overall direction of policy.

The Government's emphasis on empowering local communities will help those communities to find locally appropriate solutions to key issues such as affordable housing. The Government has recognised the need to support the farming sector and address issues like food labelling to ensure that products marked as British are in fact produced here and not merely processed here. The Prime Minister's commitment to expand the tourism sector is also important to rural communities as tourism is a major part of the rural economy.

We particularly welcome an approach to policy making which shows a greater understanding of rural issues and the importance of policy being based on principle and evidence. The decision to amend the draft Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds and the measured response to the tragic shootings in Cumbria are indicative of this approach. Defra have also abandoned the ill thought out and largely unworkable plans to establish the Animal Health Organisation and the proposed separation of responsibilities for animal health and animal welfare. We welcome the Coalition's commitment to a vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act followed by a Government Bill to repeal it.

There is much that has been done that is welcome. There are many areas where we are seeing right thinking and positive proposals. However, it is delivery of these policies that will make the real difference to the rural communities and the British countryside. There remains much to do and the Alliance will continue to campaign to see that Government continues to deliver policies for the benefit of rural people.

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