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17 JAN 2017

Leaving the EU: debate on the Rural Economy

During this debate, I said that it was incumbent on all of us to remember that, although the countryside is beautiful, it is not a living museum or a frozen Constable painting; that there are real jobs and real livelihoods in the countryside, and they are extremely important.

I reminded the Minister of the pioneering flood alleviation work at Honeydale farm in my constituency, which she visited with me; I had recently visited Littlestock brook in Milton-under-Wychwood, which is engaged in a similar scheme. A partnership of local landowners, the community and the Environment Agency are working together on upstream flood storage in the Evenlode valley. The measures include tree planting and re-routing of streams to follow their natural watercourses. I made the point that there is an economic as well as an environmental benefit to the scheme;  fruit trees create fruit and wood that can be harvested by the local community. The scheme enables local sustainable businesses to create jobs and money.

I said that Littlestock brook is essentially an open-air laboratory;  because of the way the common agricultural policy is funded, it makes it very difficult for such small community endeavours to gain the funding they need; the CAP tends to favour very big schemes and very big landowners; leaving the CAP gives us a golden opportunity to rework the policy, so that it works for all, and so that landowners in our communities can easily access the funding they need, without environmental schemes being tacked on as an afterthought;  these environmental schemes could be part of the policy from the very beginning.

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