Nick Herbert: we must value the countryside

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has outlined plans to protect and restore the countryside if his party forms the next Government.

In a speech to members of the Campaign to Protect Rural England on Thursday (22 October), the Shadow Environment Secretary said that a holistic approach was required to deal with the challenges posed by development, the need to produce more food and the threat of climate change.

Mr Herbert outlined Conservative plans to:

End the interference of top-down government by abolishing the Infrastructure Planning Commission and regional building targets - which would impose 74,600 houses on West Sussex by 2026 - and restoring decision making about planning to local communities;

  • Protect the Green Belt, which is being lost at a rate of 1,100 hectares a year;
  • Maintain the highest levels of protection for special areas of the countryside including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty;
  • Enhance the positive role of our countryside by encouraging sustainable local food production, and emphasising the social and health benefits nature provides;
  • Work with farmers and land managers, to reform agri-environment schemes and involve greater co-operation from experts in the voluntary sector;
  • Create wildlife corridors to improve our biodiversity and help wildlife adapt to climate change; and
  • Unlock the value of the services nature provides to us and create a system of conservation credits to encourage investment in wildlife and habitats.

Mr Herbert ended his speech on a positive note, saying: "As Conservatives we believe in the inherent value of conserving things.  We know the importance of securing a good future for successive generations.  We also know that our countryside matters. 

"It matters for our health and wellbeing.  It matters for our wildlife.  It matters for food production.  It matters in our response to climate change.  It matters for its intrinsic beauty.  So we value the countryside, as you do.  Our task is to ensure that government, society, communities and individuals value it, too."

CPRE Chief Executive Shaun Spiers commented: "This was a serious and wide-ranging speech about how the Conservatives will approach the countryside if they are successful at the next General Election.  Nick Herbert clearly understands the countryside well, and CPRE members will welcome his defence of Green Belts, of good planning and of the value of the countryside to people in all parts of our country.

"The challenge for Mr Herbert, as for all of our political leaders, will be to ensure that this optimistic vision and confidence in our countryside survives in hard economic times.  He will need to fight his corner strongly with colleagues in the Conservatives' Treasury team, to ensure that protecting the countryside is a top priority for any future Conservative Government, and not a luxury."

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For the full text of the speech, entitled ‘What Future for the Countryside?' visit [link to follow]

2. To contribute to the ongoing debate on the future of the countryside, visit the Future Countryside website at http://www.futurecountryside.com/.

3. For the website of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), visit http://www.cpre.org.uk/home.

Ed Barker