Problems concerning the access to rural services are inseparable from those surrounding public transport. Rural isolation, combined with the continuing decline in bus and train services, can hit people hard
We Call For...
. The Government to collaborate with rural local authorities, putting greater priority on the improvement of rural bus services. This must move up the political agenda otherwise talk of mitigating climate change through car reduction is totally meaningless.
. Local authorities in conjunction with local communities should develop trial projects on fixedroute taxi bus services and demand-responsive transport. These could provide rural communities with an accessible, efficient and reliable public transport schemes.
. Where there is a demand for the opening up of local branch lines, Network Rail, alongside local authorities should give consideration to piloting 'local franchises' to explore the viability. Passenger numbers on many rural lines in Britain have increased in recent years as a result of marketing and local promotion.
. All councils must ensure the delivery of sustainable rural transport through their local transport plans under the Local Transport Act 2008. Government policy on transport must be rural-proofed to ensure that rural transport needs are sufficiently prioritised.
The Hunting Act is unique in that its effects are entirely negative. It diminishes respect for Parliament; it puts law-abiding people at risk of prosecution; it diverts police attention from real crime; it brings no benefit to the environment; it is a blatant example of political prejudice and it does nothing for the welfare or conservation of the species it claims to 'protect'.
We Call For...
. Country pursuits to receive a fair and balanced hearing in Parliament and in public. The Government should fund and empower the third sector to deliver increased opportunities for people to participate in country pursuits and outdoor life. The Countryside Alliance Foundation's Fishing for Schools and Casting for Recovery, which is funded by The Foundation, are successful examples that could easily be expanded.
. Home Office guidance should be provided to police forces to ensure they enforce, consistently and rigorously, the law against animal rights intimidation and violence in the countryside.
. Shooting sports should receive the full support of government and sports funding. Game shooting's importance to rural tourism and the economy should be recognised. There should be no further unnecessary restrictions on firearms or shooting in the UK.
. The Hunting Act should be repealed. The Act is unworkable, bad law and bad for animal welfare. The Act is fundamentally illiberal, based not on principle and evidence but prejudice. Such laws should have no place in a modern, tolerant and free society.
As well as being the guardians of the British countryside, farmers and land managers have a huge role to play in helping Britain meet the key challenges of this century
We Call For...
. Investment in agricultural research and education is key to ensuring that British agriculture remains at the forefront of an international and ever-changing industry and is able to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.
. The potential of farming and its by-products as a significant and often existing source of renewable energy to be not only harnessed as a way of mitigating climate change but also of increasing our energy mix and therefore our energy security.
. The procurement of British produce must be a priority for all public bodies.
. The adoption of a mandatory country of origin labeling framework to ensure that British consumers are able to make an informed choice and have confidence in the products they buy would represent an important step in providing British farmers and producers with the support they deserve.
All children should have the opportunity to feel the freedom, wonder and inspiration of the countryside that can be experienced through activities such as walking over a moor, netting a fish or planting a tree.
We Call For...
. The Government to include outdoor education within the National Curriculum as a compulsory subject. Outdoor education has proven benefits for young people. Around the country a network of 850 accredited farms are already providing quality learning experiences.
. Fair and consistent funding across all schools to enable learning outside the classroom to be part of every child's education regardless of the locality and profile of a school.
. Rural-based activities to be made accessible for disadvantaged children and young people who stand to benefit through outdoor learning. Fishing can successfully rehabilitate young offenders and fight social exclusion but its use within schools remains limited. It should be promoted more widely for the benefits to be fully realised.
. Children to have greater access to accurate information about the countryside. For example, The Countryside Investigators is a new online curriculum based education resource, created by The Countryside Alliance Foundation, providing balanced information about the countryside and its management. It should be promoted to all schools to help children better understand the people and activities' that shape the countryside.
Homes and jobs need to go together. Without homes and jobs there is no community to support local shops and services. Communities must be looked at as a whole. Each part of the jigsaw which makes a community sustainable, and enables it to thrive, is dependent on the other parts. The lack of affordable housing, both to buy and rent, threatens the future of many rural communities.
We Call For...
. Locally-led initiatives to develop small clusters of affordable housing where they meet the criteria of local support, good design, and are affordable in perpetuity to local people.
. An immediate reduction of VAT to 5 per cent, for all repair, maintenance and home improvement work, as agreed by the EU in March 2009. Where such reductions have been tried in other EU countries it has shown that a cut would increase Treasury revenue, encourage the bringing back into use of the 960,000 empty properties in the UK, as well as helping the Government achieve its target of cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
. The use of 'exception sites', where the size of development is dictated by need, should be extended responsibly. Local authorities must also take advantage of the provision in Planning Policy Statement 7, which allows for land unsuitable for commercial development to be used for affordable housing.
. Incentives to be provided for landowners to offer land for housing at an affordable price. These might include tax benefits or options for nominating a family member or employee for some of the property.