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Detr Rural Programmes

Volume 592: debated on Thursday 30 July 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will set out the spending plans for the countryside and rural programmes of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) following the Comprehensive Spending Review. [HL3179]

The review of countryside and rural policy, conducted jointly by the DETR and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has concluded that there is a strong case for Government intervention to support rural communities, protect the landscape and wildlife resources of the countryside, and promote access to and enjoyment of the countryside. This Government wants to see a living, working and sustainable countryside, and is determined both to increase resources towards meeting these objectives, and to improving the co-ordination and delivery of countryside and rural programmes in the future.

Support for individual DETR agencies or programmes will be as follows:

  • English Nature's allocation will rise from £38.5 million in 1998–99 to £44.6 million in 1999–2000. This will allow the agency to continue and develop its nature conservation work, deliver obligations under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, improve the management of sites of special scientific interest, and accelerate the implementation of the Biodiversity Action Plan's species and habitats plans. We have asked English Nature to assist its smaller voluntary partners to play a full part in the Biodiversity Action Plan process.
  • The merged agency to be formed on 1 April 1999 from the Rural Development Commission and the Countryside Commission will receive an increase of £8.68 million in 1999–2000. This will give the agency an effective start by strengthening its work protecting and conserving the natural landscape, supporting rural communities, and promoting access to and enjoyment of the countryside, and will also provide for pilot projects. Part will be used for necessary restructuring costs.
  • The National Parks and Broads Authority grant will increase from £17.412 million in 1998–99 to £19.277 million in 1999–2000.
  • Support for the National Forest Company will increase from £2.5 million in 1998–99 to £3.1 million in 1999–2000, to help meet its planting targets, increase the resources available for partnership formation and bidding, and begin to develop the tourism potential of the forest.

Funding for DETR's countryside research will grow from £1.527 million in 1998–99 to £l.727 million in 1999–2000, and countryside publicity from £0.257 million in 1998–99 to £0.317 million in 1999–2000.

In addition to increasing resources, we also intend to improve the delivery and co-ordination of programmes for the countryside. The regional development agencies, which will begin operation in April next year, will be responsible for developing an integrated approach to economic development and regeneration in rural areas, in a way that contributes to sustainable development. At the centre, DETR and MAFF already work closely together in many ways, but there is room for improvement in the way the Government deliver rural policy in an integrated way. Together with the decision already taken to merge the Rural Development and the Countryside Commissions from 1 April 1999, we will be taking forward steps to improve co-ordination of the countryside programmes across the two departments, to ensure that our countryside and rural policy objectives are fully met

Further decisions on the level of resources for the following two years will be announced in 1999 in the light of the joint financial planning to be developed by DETR and MAFF.