Whilst issuing a guarded welcome for some of the “green” promises made in last week’s Giovernment cuts, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has raised doubts that rural bus services can survive with subsidies slashed.
Says CPRE campaign head Ben Stafford: “This Government has set itself a high bar by pledging to be the ‘greenest ever’. Significant cuts to the main environmental departments will not make clearing that bar any easier.
“Inevitably, many rural people will face hardship as a result of these cuts. We await further detail, but subsidised rural bus services are likely to face challenging times, thanks to the combination of a 20 per cent cut in bus subsidy grant and a 28 per cent cut in local authority funding.”
But he went on to welcome the Defra pledge to support “green farming” by saying: “Ministers will also face significant challenges ensuring that important initiatives such as the Natural Environment White Paper deliver real improvements for our countryside, wildlife and landscapes in a time of serious financial pressure.
“The task will be for Government to make the most of local communities to help deliver this, making the ‘Big Society’ a reality.
“There is, however, a notable green lining to the cuts storm clouds. CPRE and other organisations lobbied the Government hard on the importance of environmental stewardship schemes through which farmers are able to look after the landscape features and wildlife on their land.
"Ministers appear to have listened, and we welcome the announced 80 percent increase to the Higher Level Stewardship scheme over the funding period. This will help many farmers to continue to maintain valuable countryside, protecting the distinctive beauty of the English landscape that so many people value.”