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 climate change 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;
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
CY509 The Ramsar Convention is a global network of wetlands for sustaining people and the environment; the UK has 168 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
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.
CY530 The Green Party will introduce Land Value Taxation (see LD400), which will be calculated to take into consideration the economic effects of having to conserve wildlife habitats, archaeological sites and other landscape features. This would help to reduce inequality in the ownership of land and buildings and would help new entrants into farming and poorer local people to afford housing.
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:
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
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.