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Friday, 18 May, 2001, 11:37 GMT
'Rural Marshall Plan needed'
The Countryside Alliance has called for a "Marshall Plan" to be drawn up to bring about fundamental reform in rural Britain.
It says dramatic measures are needed - in the same way that the Marshall Plan reformed and helped reinvigorate the ravaged post-World War II countries of western Europe.
It says: "The consequence of the Foot and Mouth epidemic has thrown into sharp contrast the unsustainability of the British countryside and the imbalance between its economy, its community and its environment.
"What is needed now is a root and branch reform, backed by Government commitment, to support and fund radical change.
"The Alliance believes that the bedrock of this exercise must be a single co-ordinated 'Marshall Plan' for the countryside; an exercise which invests in change and removes dependency and which creates a new way of doing things rather than simply rebuilding the old."
The proposals were made in a pamphlet called Time for MPs To Get Real About The Countryside.
The pro-hunting Countryside Alliance has led the battle to save hunting with hounds.
That bill ran out of time, but Labour's manifesto pledges that MPs will be given an early opportunity to express their views if the party is re-elected.
The Commons had voted overwhelmingly for a ban, but peers in the House of Lords backed keeping hunting with self regulation.
John Jackson, chairman of the Countryside Alliance, told a news conference in London that "the countryside has been failed by politicians for many years".
Among the policies it wants to see introduced are much higher funding for public transport, with bus and rural taxi services available and targeted at the needs of communities rather than just those of people visiting the countryside.
Weathering the storm
Mr Jackson says in the pamphlet: "The future of the countryside has become one of the most topical and contentious political themes running up to the 2001 General Election.
"There is much we - Government, Parliament and the public - can do to make things better.
"The countryside is essentially resilient: it has remained viable for centuries, in the face of great destructive pressures.
"With political and social will our countryside could yet weather the latest economic storms and, by adapting to or embracing change - as it always has - survive and prosper over future generations."
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