Major revision January 1990
Last amendment September 2011
CY100 The rural areas of England and Wales are home to some twelve million people, many of whom experience the same social and economic pressures that are recognised among urban populations. These pressures include poverty, homelessness, unemployment, inadequate social and medical provision, alienation and prejudice.
CY101 These rural areas, which we collectively know as the Countryside, also represent the habitats for the greater proportion of wildlife in England and Wales. Habitats and their plant and animal communities are also under great stress from the demands of the total human population and from the climate emergency and other environmental impacts. Some habitats are globally rare or unique to the British Islands and we have international obligations to conserve them.
CY102 In developing our policies for the countryside, the Green Party recognises the conflicting interests behind the pressures faced by both the human and nonhuman populations. By doing so we seek to protect and enhance quality of life, not only for rural communities, but also for urban populations that rely on the many services provided by the countryside. These include the supply of food, water and natural resources and for a wide range of recreational pursuits ranging from the casual to highly organised events that are enhanced by or depend on their rural setting.
CY103 Failure to reconcile the many conflicting demands found within the countryside risks further drift of population to urban areas, leading to further strain on urban facilities. In addition, these demands may lead to an ecological collapse that would have major consequences for the economy and wellbeing of people in England and Wales and beyond.
CY200 The Green Party recognises that meeting the varied needs of rural and urban communities may require different approaches that are nevertheless harmonised so that the interests of one community do not dominate another and that experiences gained are shared for mutual benefit.
CY202 The Green Party believes that we all have an obligation to live within the natural limits of our environment and to adopt lifestyles that will not irrevocably damage the environment for future generations.
Long Term Aims
CY300 The objective of our countryside policy is to create self-reliant communities that retain the fruits of local investment and activity and preserve the conditions where people can live in ways which care for habitats and wildlife and allow them to fulfil spiritual, emotional, social, intellectual and physical needs.
Short Term Aims
a) Revitalise the economy and life of rural communities;
b) Legislate to reform land tenure and access to land;
c) Legislate to stop further destruction of wildlife habitats, the soil, the landscape, ancient monuments and our countryside heritage;
d) Enact policies that will make the whole countryside more hospitable to wildlife, entailing increased protection for wildlife and habitats and delivery of meaningful landscape-scale conservation and restoration;
e) Increase the area and quality of woods, orchards, agroforestry, hedges and other tree cover;
f) Ensure food security, integrating human health and wellbeing, environmental protection, animal welfare and decent livelihoods for farmers, farm workers and growers;
f) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop appropriate renewable energy especially at local and community level.
Wildlife, Habitat and Species Protection
CY500 Maintaining a healthy environment necessitates the maintenance of species diversity and the vigorous protection of wild habitats. The Green Party’s policies to increase self-reliance and address our consumer-based lifestyle will help to ensure that we do not make environmentally damaging demands on the countryside or the rest of the world. We will work to extend globally our policies to support sustainable rural communities and will support at every level of the international community effective measures to protect the environment.
CY501The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and related legislation will be consolidated and strengthened to remove loopholes and weaknesses that allow further destruction of wildlife and habitats. The Green Party will ensure that wildlife-rich sites are adequately protected and extend a basic level of habitat protection to the whole countryside. We will ensure that there are sufficient resources to enforce the legislation.
CY502 The Green Party will make it a general offence to cause cruelty to wild animals or suffering where it can be practicably avoided. Those committing such acts will be prosecuted in the same way as for domestic animals. Humane methods of killing, for instance in pest control, will be required. The Green Party will bring in an outright ban on snaring.
CY505 We will work at the European level to strengthen protection of habitats through the Habitats Directive and will ensure that Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy continues to provide environmental and habitat protection.
CY506 We support the establishment of Nature 2000 network of special areas of conservation established by the European Habitat Directive and its associated legislation. Although the UK has a good record of reporting on such sites, biodiversity is still threatened at many types of sites in particular grassland, wetland and coastal sites. And more positive action on biodiversity is needed.
CY507 Introduction of non-native wild plants and non-native genotypes of British species may have a negative impact on wild plant populations and communities in the UK. The Green Party aims to ensure good quality habitat restoration and avoid the introduction of harmful or invasive non-native plants. Relevant policy is in place under the Convention for Biological Diversity, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the Habitats Directive but there remain loopholes. We will review legislation and implement new laws where currently there are only codes of practice. We will collaborate at a European level to achieve this, including both live plants and seeds in the review.
CY508 Collection of wild plant species may have impacts on wild populations. The Green Party will support measures to introduce a European Wild Plants directive which would give clear labelling on all living wild plant material traded within Europe, license all traders dealing with wild-collected plant material and tighten up
import and export controls on wild plants.
CY509 The Ramsar Convention is a global network of wetlands for sustaining people and the environment; the UK has 174 designated sites. The Green Party will ensure that Ramsar Convention sites remain highly protected and that other designated areas retain a high degree of protection from development.
CY510 The Green Party recognises the continuing pressures on the countryside. Rather than economic growth being the key driver of planning policies, we believe that ecologically sound strategic planning is needed, protecting and enhancing the environment and integrating the needs of urban and rural communities, as well as future generations. The Green Party opposes the relocation of environmentally damaging operations overseas.
The Rural Economy
CY511 Rural areas support a dynamic and diverse economy that employs over 5 million people and makes a significant contribution to the national economy. Agriculture lies at the heart of this economy and it supports many spin-off enterprises – from recreation to retail outlets. The Green Party believes that a new policy approach is needed to support and enhance this vital economic sector (see below). However, we also acknowledge the potential of non-agricultural rural enterprise, including recreation and tourism, renewable energy, home working and internet linked enterprise. We will pursue policies to enhance such diversification of the rural economy, shifting it away from its traditional low pay and seasonal work. In doing so we will ensure that rural enterprise does not adversely impact on the ecology or food production potential of the countryside.
CY520 Agriculture forms an important part of the rural economy, producing food and other products, generating income and providing employment. Agricultural land makes up a large part of the countryside and rural landscape and supports diverse wildlife habitats. Green Party policies on Food and Agriculture aim to improve farming livelihoods, provide safe and nutritious food, improve long-term food security and increase regional and local self-reliance in food.
CY521 The Green Party will support shorter supply chains and direct links between producers and consumers to maximise income generation in rural areas and to supply healthier, fresher food. We will discourage large-scale agribusiness, processors and retailers which take large profit margins, concentrate jobs in urban centres and cause the closure of small, local retailers.
CY522 The Green Party will discourage the amalgamation of farms, support family farms, improve access to land for new entrants to farming and horticulture and favour the setting up of sustainable, small-scale and labour-intensive enterprises and their associated dwellings. We support sustainable diversification and multiple use of agricultural land and buildings, for instance for appropriate renewable energy, tourism, recreational pursuits and low-impact enterprises.
CY523 The Green Party will support small-scale, environmentally benign farming systems that protect the soil, biodiversity and water resources, minimise greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, support ‘joined-up’ wildlife habitats and provide secure jobs in rural communities. We support farming and land management which conserve and, where appropriate, increase woods, orchards, agroforestry, hedges and other trees. We will phase out ‘factory farming’ and discourage farming systems highly dependent on fossil fuels and imported feed that have large-scale environmental impacts and tend to reduce rural income and employment.
CY524 Soil is the biggest pool of carbon stored in the land, and is an important wildlife habitat in its own right. Soil is also an essential resource without which human civilisation cannot survive, yet farming is too often responsible for depletion and degradation of the soil. Through legislation and support for agri-environment schemes, the Green Party will ensure that all farming and land uses protect and enhance the soil.
CY525 Agriculture accounts for a large proportion of the pollution of watercourses with nitrates, phosphates and sediments from fertilisers, inappropriate application and disposal of manure and from soil erosion. Release and deposition of nitrogen compounds pose threats to biodiversity. Pesticide spraying can threaten watercourses and the health of farm workers, rural communities and consumers. The Green Party will support a strategy to reduce release of nitrogen compounds and other pollutants, will increase monitoring of watercourses and enforce penalties for pollution of watercourses and unsafe or inappropriate use of pesticides.
CY526 The Green Party will work towards replacing the Common Agricultural Policy, and while it still exists, support a radical reorientation of the CAP to support sustainable farming systems that protect and enhance wildlife habitats and biodiversity, ensure fair and secure farm incomes, support sustainable and thriving rural communities and promote regional and local self-reliance in food.
CY527 The Green Party welcomes the concept of agri-environment schemes such as Environmental Stewardship and initiatives such as catchment-sensitive farming, where agricultural support may be used for environmentally sympathetic ends. We support extension of the concept to the whole of the countryside. We encourage further investment as having a positive role to play in securing the future of the countryside.
CY540 The Green Party will ensure that planning for sustainable use of the countryside for multiple purposes is a major and integral part of the Local Development Frameworks to be implemented by all Local Planning Authorities and National Park Authorities. Advice will be provided by the government’s statutory authorities and agencies on conservation and full democratic consultation undertaken. Ecological criteria will be given full weight in all planning decisions.
CY541 The Green Party will ensure that planning decisions are made at the lowest appropriate level – by elected parish, town, district, county or unitary councils, and ensure that they have the necessary training and access to knowledge to make appropriate decisions. Appeals against refusals will be determined by a strengthened independent planning inspectorate, competent to take all factors into account. The Infrastructure Planning Commission, or any similar separate fast-track body for national infrastructure decisions, will be abolished as democratically unsafe. However, steps will be taken to avoid unnecessarily long hearings into major developments. The Green Party will review the case for the right to appeal against local planning approvals.
CY542 The Green Party will strengthen planning controls for large-scale or damaging land-use changes in the countryside, in particular, large-scale farm buildings, new and improvement works by drainage bodies and water authorities, clearances of woodland, works affecting woodland and large-scale afforestation.
CY543 The Green Party will introduce legislation to halt and reverse the spread of light pollution in the countryside in order to protect the dark night sky and to minimise disturbance to wildlife from artificial light. There will be a presumption against new lighting in the countryside – this will be incorporated into all Local Development Frameworks. Improved lighting design and the use of more efficient lighting will be required for new developments or replacement of existing lighting. Energy conservation, including the removal or reduction of unnecessary lighting, will be promoted. National policy that encourages local renewable energy installations will be retained, strengthened and enforced.
CY550 We see the whole of the countryside as important for conservation and will treat all farmland and open country as environmentally sensitive. The Green Party endorses the extra controls and incentives for specially protected areas but wishes to see their successes replicated as widely as possible. In particular we will work to link the current protected areas into a wider network of sites.
CY551 We will encourage Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales to carry out a thorough review of the complicated system of designated areas. In the long term, we will seek the continued expansion of conservation principles to the whole of the countryside.
CY552 National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty provide a popular expression of the nation’s love of the countryside and demonstrate a special combination of access, recreation and tourism. In the long term the lessons learnt from National Parks and successes in arresting unbridled agricultural, forestry, industrial and mining developments will be applied to the whole countryside.
CY553 The Green Party will strengthen and widen the role of National Parks and the Park Authorities by encouraging better democracy in their governance, by addressing the lack of control and investment in species and habitat protection and by encouraging better take-up of renewable energy opportunities.
CY554 The Green Party considers that the use of National Parks for artillery ranges and other forms of destructive military training are incompatible with the designation of a National Park and its continuance cannot be tolerated. We will press for the earliest withdrawal of inappropriate military training within National Parks.
CY555 The Green Party will ensure that the National Planning Policy Framework continues to provide strong policy protection against mineral extraction in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). Local authorities will be encouraged to make a concerted effort to remove the remaining old dormant permissions in these sensitive areas. We oppose all mineral developments in National Parks, other than small-scale operations that produce materials for local traditional building and repair.
Environmentally Sensitive Areas
CY560The Green Party will provide adequate funding for the management of designated sites, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), National Nature Reserves (NNRs) Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs). In addition we will give local authorities the power to make Countryside Conservation Orders to protect vulnerable features which require conservation, consistent with our aim to disseminate good practice more widely.
CY562 The Green Party will retain and rigorously strengthen Green Belt legislation as a positive measure to revitalise the countryside, improve quality of life for people in cities and large towns and encourage the extension of ‘green wedges’ into the cities. We will:
a) Make rural communities rewarding places to live and work in, reducing and reversing rural depopulation and out-migration.
b) Extend environmental and social impact statements into all areas of decision-making.
c) Encourage the development of thriving urban and rural communities.
d) Reduce speculation in land in both urban and rural areas.
Woodlands, Forests and Trees (see Forestry)
CY570 Woods and trees play a vital role in the landscape. They protect soil from erosion, protect water supplies and water quality, provide wildlife habitats and protect the climate by storing carbon both above ground and in the soil. They can provide us with renewable supplies of timber, wood fuel and healthy food. They can make landscapes more beautiful. Woods, plantations, orchards, agroforestry, hedges and trees are especially important to our policies to protect the countryside.
CY571 The Green Party will ensure that woods are considered as an integral part of Local Development Frameworks. Planning authorities will be required to liaise with the Forestry Commission and other bodies when dealing with the establishment of new woods and the management of existing ones. The public ownership of woods and plantations that are currently in public ownership, such as those managed by the Forestry Commission, will be rigorously protected. Public rights of access to such woods and plantations will also be rigorously protected whenever this is compatible with wildlife protection and good management.
CY572 Good management of existing woods, plantations, orchards and hedges will be encouraged, for example through agri-environment schemes. Farmers and landowners will be encouraged to allow new woods to grow and where appropriate to create new plantations, orchards, agroforestry and hedges.
Access to the Countryside
CY580 The Green Party will extend the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to provide wider public access such as that granted in Scotland by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Access Authorities will ensure that the law is properly implemented. Public access to woods and plantations will be protected (see above).
CY590 We see local authorities as custodians of local democracy, being the primary agents for conserving the countryside and building strong and resilient rural communities. The Green Party supports the further devolution of powers from central government and higher-tier authorities to lower-tier authorities. We will act to strengthen the role and responsibilities of Parish and Town Councils.
CY600 There is a crisis of housing and affordable homes in rural areas. Pressure to build more houses to accommodate second and third homes puts pressure on housing availability and on land, which frequently is good quality agricultural land better suited to supplying long-term food requirements. Developments in existing rural towns and villages puts pressure on already inadequate facilities, and while incoming residents can benefit such areas, new housing developments
can generate local hostility. Much of this new build is unaffordable to people working in the countryside and for a young rural generation who might choose to remain close to their family roots.
CY601 Imaginative schemes, as proposed in the Green Party Housing policy, are needed in order to address the issue of rural homelessness and to secure a supply of affordable homes (see HO103). A Rural Housing Agency will be established to keep under review the needs of people working in rural areas who might not be able to access homes through traditional routes (see HO507).
CY602 Support will be given to low-impact living initiatives, particularly where they can meet rural housing need and help with rural economic regeneration. Such developments will be required to follow the principles of sustainability and self-reliance being pioneered by the Transition and Low Carbon Communities movements (see HO509). These schemes might include self-build projects (see HO508).
CY603 The Green Party will enact policies to discourage the speculation in land that pushes up prices beyond the means of the majority rural population. We will discourage second home ownership since this effectively reduces house availability to the permanent rural population.
Rural Transport and Services
CY604 Transport needs of rural areas differ from those of towns, yet too often the rural service is no more than the poor relation of an urban based system. Because of the inadequacy of rural facilities and employment opportunities, distances travelled are generally greater, involving greater expense than in urban areas (see TR080). Dependency on cars for essential trips is much greater, with many villages and remote communities having no, or an inadequate, public transport alternative. Such are the distances to be travelled the alternatives of walking or cycling may well be unrealistic. As a result of these factors, plus the higher costs of fuel in rural areas, expenditure per household on travel in rural areas is generally higher than in urban areas. For people in the lowest income bands this can be as much as 50% higher than their urban equivalents. However, a significant number of countryside residents do not have regular access to a car, young people and disabled people being particularly disadvantaged.
CY605 The aim of the Green Party’s rural transport policy is to secure equitable accessibility in a sustainable manner that minimizes impact on the environment and the community (see TR010). An important element of this policy is demand reduction (see TR020). Planning policy will reflect the need to reverse the trend away from local facilities in favour of centralised, usually town-based developments. Any new housing developments in the countryside will also be required to recognise the potential transport needs of residents, providing solutions that do not rely on private car ownership.
CY606 The Green Party will develop a more innovative approach based on real needs as expressed by people living in the countryside. Such innovations would include shared vehicle ownership, community transport schemes, multiple-use vehicles such as the alpine-style post bus and locally based and affordable private hire (see TR211). Modern web and phone-based technology would be utilised to enable more efficient use of available transport.
CY607 The costs of delivery of a rural transport service may be higher than in urban areas. The Green Party will reform and increase the Rural Transport Grant to a level that allows for this. The grant will be administered by the most appropriate level of government, which will determine and enforce service levels in consultation with transport users (see TR201 & TR210).
CY608 The Green Party believes all citizens, both in towns and in the countryside, have the right to public services such as public libraries, music, sport, and the arts, and that public funds should therefore be provided to support them. However, the Green Party will encourage innovative solutions to maintain vital local services if necessary, such as post offices relocated into village shops, community halls and pubs, internet access in village halls and churches doubling up as meeting rooms and music venues.
CY609 Department of Health funding allocation will make sufficient allowance for the higher cost of delivering health services in rural areas, so reversing the trend of closing local facilities and transferring their functions to large urban centres.
Tourism in the Country
CY620 The countryside is probably the largest recreational resource in the country. Most people spend some recreational time in the country during the year, in pursuits ranging from the very informal to the highly organized. All recreational visits have some impact on the countryside and those who live there; increasingly people are expecting facilities and ease of access. A great many people benefit from a ‘reconnection’ with nature and countryside recreation serves to enhance general health and wellbeing, both physical and mental.
CY621 Recreation and tourism are important parts of the rural economy. The Green Party will seek to ensure that this contribution is sustainable and benefits the economy of the locality where it takes place (see TM040 & EC911). In considering planning proposals, Local Planning Authorities will be required to consider the sustainability of the enterprise, the quality and permanence of the net employment the applicant claims would be created and its overall landscape and environmental impact. Periodic reviews will take place, incorporating an environmental impact assessment (see TM031) and the input of local
CY622 Correctly managed, recreation and tourism have the potential to enhance the lives of people living in rural areas, where people can become isolated, not only through developing multi-use facilities, but also in offering the opportunities for people to meet and interact for mutual benefit (see TM016 & TM010).
CY623 The benefits of recreation and tourism can include inward investment and development in local communities (see TM003). The Green Party will encourage the development of multi-purpose facilities, usable throughout the year, to meet the needs of local people as well as visitors. Such facilities would offer more regular employment than seasonal facilities.
CY624 The Green Party recognises that developing attractive recreational and holiday facilities closer to centres of population is important in supporting our policy to reduce long-distance and air travel. However, we will ensure that facilities are designed and managed to minimise social and environmental impact (see TM002 & TM032).
Countryside Chapter Updates
January 2018 – CY509 updated by Policy Development Committee to reflect change in number of designated Ramsar sites