Sunday, 01 July 2007 13:50

Lib Dems unveil rural manifesto

Written by  Ruralcity Media
ImageThe Liberal Democrats have launched a vision document outlining the party’s plans to address rural social problems.

The paper, A Fair Future for Rural England, calls for the creation of sustainable rural communities supported by good schools, public services and thriving local businesses.

Schools need the ‘pupil premium’ to reflect rural needs, while rural outreach clinics and home visits can extend health care, says the document.

Other key proposals include increasing the amount of affordable rural housing by strengthening councils’ fiscal and planning powers over second homes.

The paper says broadband coverage is key to the revival of remote rural areas that have been left behind as better located rural areas grow rapidly.

It also calls for bioenergy to be boosted by long-term targets for biofuels and reforms of woodland tax breaks to boost biomass cropping.

The document was launched by Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell during a visit to the Royal Show in Warwickshire on Sunday (1 July).

“The popular image of a rural idyll hides a darker reality of rural hardship,” he said.

“Rural communities are suffering from inadequate transport systems, local schools and services like post offices closing down and housing that is no longer affordable.”

The Conservative party is also set to launch a major review of its rural policies during the Royal Show.

Tory policy group chairman John Gummer will unveil recommendations from the party's Quality of Life report on 3 July.

Newly-appointed environment secretary Hilary Benn is expected to review the government’s rural policies during parliament’s summer recess.

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