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Farron sets out New Deal for rural Britain

March 25, 2009 11:13 AM

Speaking during a parliamentary debate on the rural economy in the recession, Liberal Democrat Defra Spokesperson Tim Farron yesterday outlined his view for a New Deal for rural Britain.

Mr Farron's proposals would mark a significant change in direction from the Government's 'one-size fits all' response to the recession by giving local decision makers the flexibility and investment to encourage the creativity and resourcefulness of rural communities.

Replace the top-down Regional Spatial Strategy with a system that allows innovative schemes like 'Home on the Farm' to provide affordable housing for local people in areas that the community identifies.

Ensure farmers and consumers both get a fair price for food by creating a legally binding supermarket code, enforced by a powerful proactive Food Market Regulator.

Make use of our countryside's natural resources by investing in renewable energy techniques including hydro electricity generators and anaerobic digestion.

Investment in local infrastructure such public lavatories and tourist information centres as well as improved rural services including post offices, pubs and local shops.

Commenting Tim said:

"The contribution of rural Britain to our economy is huge. Our rural communities complement urban Britain and in many ways they lead the way with their creativity and resourcefulness.

"To get the most out of rural Britain we need to give rural communities the flexibility to make decisions according to their local interests and not those passed down to them by central government.

"This means bringing an end to the hopeless regional spatial strategy that tries to impose a one-size fits all solution for affordable housing. We need a more flexible approach to allow proposals such as my 'Home on the Farm' scheme to deal with the shortage of affordable housing in rural communities.

"In smaller rural communities, the loss of public sector jobs is felt even more keenly than in larger urban area. That is why the closure of Kendal's tax office would be such a backwards step. The economic downturn should prompt the government to invest in public sector infrastructure areas such as the proposed Kendal cancer unit which will deliver first class medical care for South Lakeland.

"We need a new deal for the countryside that provides rural Britain with the flexibility to remain vibrant and the investment to remain productive."