Election special – Conservative policies on rural issues

With a General Election looming on 7 May, we asked the political parties to set out their policies on eight key rural issues that affect the countryside in 2015. Here are all the responses made by the Conservatives

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Should some areas of green belt be built on to increase supply of housing?

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Conservatives are committed to safeguarding the green belt, which is why we have increased protection by abolishing the last Labour Government’s top-down regional strategies that sought to delete the green belt in 30 areas. Our new planning practice guidance makes clear that most green-belt development is inappropriate, including unmet local housing need.

Do you believe that the ban on hunting with hounds should be repealed?

Hunting evokes strong views on both sides and the issue is a matter of personal conscience. We want to put a motion with a free vote before the House of Commons on whether the Hunting Act 2004 should be repealed when Parliamentary time allows. If Parliament were to vote in favour of repeal, the Government would introduce a Repeal Bill.

How will you improve rural broadband access?

We have connected thousands of homes and businesses in rural areas and we are working on connecting the last areas, which includes spending £10 million to support pilot schemes. This programme will provide a £1.5 billion boost to rural economies.

What are the best ways to tackle bovine TB in cattle?

Tackling bovine TB is vital for Britain’s food security and the health of our beef and dairy industries. We are taking action, which includes cattle movement controls, vaccinating badgers in some areas and culling badgers in areas where bovine TB is rife. This approach has worked in Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland.

How will you stimulate the rural economy?

We are investing in improved infrastructure such as broadband and transport links as well as working to boost mobile phone signals. This is unlocking the huge potential for growth in the countryside, where entrepreneurial activity is outstripping many parts of the UK.

How will you improve rural transport links?

We’ve set out plans for £15 billion of road investment over the next parliament and £38 billion for our railways over the next five years. We’re supporting the local transport services that many people in rural communities rely on, including a £25 million fund to provide hundreds of new minibuses for rural community transport operators.

What is your approach towards HS2 and HS3?

Investing in HS2 and looking at a third high speed line between Manchester and Leeds are important parts of our long-term economic plan. With huge pressures on rail capacity, and an economic gap between north and south, we need infrastructure investments to build the Northern Powerhouse required to make the most of the area’s economic potential.

Are there instances where development should be stopped to protect wildlife or biodiversity?

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We have created an approach that allows local communities to properly protect areas such as sites of special scientific interest, special protection areas and special areas of conservation. The National Planning Policy Framework makes clear these important protections must be taken into account by local authorities.