The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) Manifesto for
the Rural Economy 2009 Making the most of our Countryside
was launched at The CLA Game Fair. It sets out what the next Government needs to do if we are to have a thriving and sustainable countryside.
Though the CLA mainly represents the interests of landowners,
the manifesto should be of relevance to anyone with an interest in the rural economy and, of course, what helps the rural economy also helps shooting. First, shooting depends on a diverse environment, and that needs to be paid for. The concern is where the money will come from. In the CLAs view, the major realistic source is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Many shooters may think the CAP is all about farming, but they would be wrong.
For the past decade the CAP has been going through some fundamental changes. It is not just about maximising food production any more. Food can generally be provided through the market. Habitats and biodiversity cannot. It is true that most rural landowners do what they can to protect the countryside. However, few have the resources to do everything they
would want. That is why the CAP is now as much about funding the creation and preservation of the environment, including the various habitats on which shooters depend. Half of all the money that shoots claim in stewardship payments comes from the CAP budget. Obviously, the economic situation at the moment is bad, but if we want to keep the current level of funding for biodiversity, we have to make the case to keep the budget at its current size and for it to be spent where it is most needed on providing an environment that no-one else will pay for.
The CLA recognises that climate change presents a real threat to the countryside and that we need prompt and decisive action if we are to respond to it effectively. If we can convince Government that trees are important as a carbon sink and that we should be using more timber for building purposes, the upshot should be more forestry and woodland, which must be in everyones interest, including shoots.
One of the most common gripes you hear from anyone trying to make a living in the countryside is the state of the planning system. Once it was mainly farmers trying to convert redundant farm buildings who had the greatest problems. Now it is almost everyone. Some planning authorities are saying you need permission to convert your farmland into a shoot, others that a bund or high seat requires permission. The CLA believes the degree of regulation has gone too far. We need the Government to accept that certain forms of development, including development associated with shooting, are not only
acceptable in the countryside but positively desirable and that policies need to be put in place to promote such development.
There is also shooting itself. For many landowners shooting is a major income stream. Of course the use of firearms needs to be regulated to some extent, but we must not have any ill-considered or half-baked controls imposed.
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