Strategy to protect coast and country

By Juliette MaxamPROTECTING the countryside and coastline, while also making village life easier, are goals of a new blueprint for the future of rural life in Essex.

By Juliette Maxam

PROTECTING the countryside and coastline, while also making village life easier, are goals of a new blueprint for the future of rural life in Essex.

The Essex Rural Partnership has drawn up a new rural strategy aimed at identifying how the county can meet the demands of the 21st century through balanced development to benefit community, environmental and economic goals.

The strategy was launched yesterday at an event attended by television presenter John Craven.

Under the new proposals, life for people living in the countryside could be improved through: better transport; broadband access, even in isolated rural communities; supporting farms and other rural businesses seeking to diversify; increasing the availability of affordable housing; and improving skills and employment opportunities.

Environmentally, the partnership wants to see Essex remain a green and lush county, with the coastline protected and enhanced.

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The blueprint also set out a vision for promoting tourism, while protecting and enhancing the natural, built and historic environment.

Essex Rural Partnership is an organisation representing more than 70 groups supporting rural services across public and private sectors.

Peter Martin, partnership chairman and Essex County Council cabinet member for planning, environment and culture, said: “Of the critical issues in the strategy, one - the implications of climate change - could not be more topical in the light of the recent G8 summit.

“The strategy sets the partnership's direction for the next few years. I am extremely grateful to the partnership members for their commitment to harmonising the delivery of services within rural areas.

“Much time has been contributed by the partners to the development of the strategy and, consequently, the priorities that have been identified truly represent the communal expertise of many organisations.

“Clearly, the implementation of the strategy is now the critical task and all of the partners will wish to contribute. The achievement of the new structure must lead quickly to the development of action plans.”

Mr Craven, who presents BBC's Countryfile programme, said: “In this strategy you have set a very large and very important task for yourselves. Essex people throughout history have always been up for a challenge.

“But the challenge you have decided to take is well grounded in your past successes. I wish you well with that challenge.”

John Hall, Essex Wildlife Trust director, said: “Most people who do not know Essex or imagine it from afar don't know our superb environment.

“But we know - and we know we are going to have to work very hard over the next few years to protect and enhance this Essex environment.”

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