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Land Use

As the populations of major UK urban cities continue to sprawl out, issues affecting the rural areas have increased in number making proper land use planning crucial to maintaining the integrity of the countryside.  Rural areas are wards, districts, or counties that have low population densities, scattered settlements, large tracts of open space, and do not have services that are commonly available in more urbanized areas (e.g., well developed transport infrastructure) (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), 2001; Park et al., 2004).  They may range in type, size, and liveliness from remote villages and hamlets to settlements on the outside of large towns or areas with extensive agriculture and farming (Office of Deputy Prime Minister, 2001).  In 2004, the Government issued four planning objectives for rural areas:

  1. 'To raise the quality of life and the environment in rural areas.
  2. To promote more sustainable patterns of development.
  3. Promoting the development of the English regions by improving their economic performance so that all are able to reach their full potential.
  4. To promote sustainable, diverse, and adaptable agriculture sectors.'

(Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2004, p. 6)

In addition, the strategies seem to be coming from the 'top down' instead of the 'bottom up.'  Many rural planning agencies and residents understand the rural issues but Government policies offer very little description of the coordination that has occurred with rural planning agencies and residents to identify these issues and appropriate strategies.  For example, a recent survey of farmers found that farmers with less than 200 hectares were less likely to implement environmentally beneficial land management changes than those with larger farmers (FPDSavills Research, 2001).  Moreover, these policies do not address the changes in lifestyle that will be necessary among the general population to achieve sustainability objective.  These changes may actually require a perceived lowering of quality of life.  Ultimately, the present generation will have to learn to conserve energy, water, and resources while minimize waste and doing more with less (Campaign to Protect Rural England, 2004).  Aggressive government policies and funding will not be enough to bring about these changes, especially if rural residents were not initially consulted when developing these strategies.

It is national planning policy to distinguish between town (urban areas) and country (rural areas) (Campaign to Protect Rural England, 2004).  However, some of the issues associated with rural areas are the results of unsolved urban problems.  For example, sprawl is the overflow or continuous outstretch of urban areas in rural areas.  Increased population and demand stresses infrastructure and community services.  Sprawl creates problems in rural areas (e.g., traffic) that they are not equipped to solve.  Unless the Government encourages some type of 'unified' planning initiatives, it is unlikely that some of the issues in rural areas can be solved separately from those of urban areas.

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