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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): When we announced the Urban White Paper on 20 October, we said we would be making an announcement shortly about our policies for rural areas.
We have introduced a range of new policies to implement our commitment to sustainable development and to foster a modern, inclusive society with fairness and opportunity for all. Rural communities are an integral part of our vision for the whole country and are already benefiting from our new approach. Our manifesto pledges on education, health, crime, and the economy apply just as much to rural areas as to urban. Rural areas have many distinctive features and needs. In our manifesto we pledged to recognise these special needs and to stop the decline in rural public and transport services, give greater protection to wildlife,
Already we have taken action to support these pledges. We have given an extra £50 million a year to rural transport; given greater protection to the countryside by increasing the target for housing development on brownfield sites; and announced our decision to bring together the Rural Development Commission and Countryside Commission to create the new Countryside Agency to champion rural England and the English countryside. As a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review, expenditure on DETR countryside programmes will increase very significantly--from £128 million this year to £174 million in 2001-02. We are committed to restoring confidence in the farming industry and have just announced an additional aid package for the UK livestock sector that will be worth some £120 million. We have also secured the lifting of the ban on beef exports. At a regional level, the new Regional Development Agencies will bring a more strategic approach to regional development taking full account of their rural areas.
As our range of new policies bear fruit we are determined to ensure that they come together in a holistic way to fit rural circumstances. Our vision is of a living, working, accessible and sustainable countryside, with thriving rural communities where public services are properly supported, which is contributing fully to the life and economy of the nation, and where the natural and cultural heritage is conserved and enhanced for everyone to enjoy.
We now propose to set out more details of our vision, and what we are doing to achieve it in a White Paper on rural England. My right honourable friends the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions have therefore agreed that preparation of this new White Paper will be led jointly by our two departments. We will also be working closely with colleagues in many other departments to ensure that government activity across the board is tailored and integrated to reflect rural circumstances and the distinctive contribution that rural areas make to all our lives. We will be involving the Countryside Agency and the Regional Development Agencies in drawing up the White Paper.
The White Paper will explore how our policies on matters such as the economy, health, transport, education, housing, crime, agriculture, energy efficiency and planning will support sustainable rural communities and how rural areas can contribute to the fulfilment of the Government's objectives in these matters. It will look at how our development and regeneration policies will assist deprived rural communities, and give rural people the opportunity to participate fully in our society. It will examine the way we are conserving and enhancing the countryside as a resource and amenity for
The White Paper will assess what more needs to be done by government, other organisations and individuals. We are determined to ensure that the links between towns, cities and rural areas are properly considered. Work on the Rural White Paper will complement that on the Urban White Paper.
There has already been much debate about the countryside. We will continue to listen to views and engage in discussions as we prepare the White Paper. We are sure many organisations and people will wish to contribute.
Lord Whitty: The Government aim to encourage cycling as an effective and environmentally friendly means of transport and have issued Traffic Management and Parking Guidance to the London local authorities which makes it clear that they need to have particular regard to the needs of cyclists and for cycle parking. A copy of the guidance is in the Library. I understand that the Royal Parks Agency is also happy to consider providing cycle racks where there is a demand and it would help visitors to the park.
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