How should the English countryside look in future?

South Downs The UK government now has more control over how it spends EU farming funds

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People are being asked to offer their views on how the English countryside should look.

The government has opened a consultation on the priorities for spending nearly £20bn of EU subsidies over the next seven years.

The budget has been cut overall and there is huge controversy about how it should be shared between helping farmers and protecting wildlife.

The decisions will have an impact on hedgerows, trees, wild flowers, birds, bees, water quality and the appearance of the landscape.

An EU settlement in the summer has given individual nations more discretion on how to spend funds.

Some countries want to prioritise direct help for farmers, but the UK government says farmers should have to earn their cash as much as possible by working in a way that benefits the environment.

'Significantly disadvantaged'

Ministers want to divert the maximum amount of 15% into rural development and green schemes.

They aim to help hill farmers and to create shelter for pollinators, such as bees and moths.

But this has worried big farmers, who they say they will lose out and get less direct payment than some of their European counterparts.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) president, Peter Kendall, said: "English farmers are already significantly disadvantaged in comparison with their near neighbours in the EU."

Environmentalists are not happy either. They argue the government's plans have failed to ensure that whole landscapes are farmed in a way that safeguards water quality and the environment.

Helen Perkins from the Wildlife Trusts said: "We need to see farming for nature mainstreamed - with environmental standards raised on every farm so that exemplary practices aren't restricted to pockets of the countryside."

Campaigners are perplexed that the government has given the public just 28 days to respond to the consultation on an immensely complex reform.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own processes over farm budgets.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin


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  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    As per 237 build houses on just 1% of the countryside and solve the housing and employment crisis overnight.

    Its mad that we protect the countryside (where hardly anyone lives) and cram buildings into ever nook and cranny in the cities which are already rammed full.

    We have an older generation who have done very well out of the debt they ran up and now they are pulling up the drawbridge

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Live in France in cheese area where to be called "Comte" only milk from hay-fed cattle can be used, despite fields being under snow from Nov to Apr and cows living indoors. Result, every space is used for organic grazing and hay growth, stored for winter feeds.Incredible wild flower meadows, excellent cheese. Intensive farming and silage shouldn't get financial support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Just build on it! Its going to happen eventually so we might as well accept it now, its just boring space at the moment, get houses on there to help with the overpopulation of the country

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    No houses built on green fields, woodlands or any other site that belongs to the countryside. Use the redundant industrial sites - there are so many. Preserve our beautiful countryside -the most beautiful in the world!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Just leave the countryside alone - along with everything else.The Tories are selling our country off, Labour are giving everything away and the libs will say and go with anyone that will have them. Just once can't we just leave things alone! Change doesn't always mean progression it can mean regression. If anyone of those 3 are involved then guaranteed a costly mess and destruction will ensue.


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