“The UK government is failing rural communities and the natural environment, a report says.
The Lords Select Committee document says there should be radical change in how the countryside is looked after.
It recommends stripping the environment department Defra of its power to regulate on rural affairs, and reforming the Countryside Code.
The Lords said Defra had focused too much on farming and agriculture, rather than other aspects of rural life.
The report describes a “consistent failure, over a number of years, to prioritise the ‘rural affairs’ element” of the remit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
All this, it says, has had a “profound negative impact … to the cost of us all”.
The Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 recommends that responsibility for rural affairs should transfer to the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government.
According to the report, the body responsible for conserving the natural environment and promoting public access to the land, Natural England (NE), has been “hollowed out” and is now largely ineffective.
The report’s chairman, Lord Cameron of Dillington, said: “The last major research was done by the Commission for Social Mobility last year, and it said some of the worst spots for deprivation and intergenerational poverty exists in rural England.
“That it’s as bad as if not worse than our inner cities. We feel they have been neglected by government, that Defra is not doing a good job and that changes need to be made.”
Severe budget cuts and the abolition of the Rural Communities Policy Unit means that NE no longer has the budget or power to effectively and independently regulate government policy. It also means that not enough is being done to promote responsible access to the countryside.
Taking advice from the National Farmers Union, it says that the Countryside Code should be re-launched, so more people are aware of how to properly enjoy rural areas. …”