Election special – Green 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 Green Party

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

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We acknowledge the desperate need for more genuinely affordable housing. However, pressure on the green belt comes from developers who know greenfield sites are cheaper to develop and return more profit. We will strengthen green belt legislation but also ensure wildlife on brownfield sites gets protected spaces within developments.

Do you believe that the ban on hunting with hounds should be repealed?

The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to all blood-sports. We oppose the killing of,or infliction of pain or suffering upon, animals in the name of sport or leisure. We want to extend the 1911 Protection of Animals Act to prohibit shooting, snaring, coursing and various other abuses of our animal population.

How will you improve rural broadband access?

We will ensure high-speed broadband is available to all rural areas at the same cost as in urban areas, if necessary by adding a small fee for all phone lines. Government needs to fund local authorities in developing localised e-markets.

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

The badger cull is unscientific, inhumane and likely to make the problem worse. Instead, strategies such as vaccination, more frequent testing, improved biosecurity and badger-proofing cattle yards and feed sheds are needed. We also need to tackle cattle-to-cattle transmission by controlling cattle movements and communal cattle housing.

How will you stimulate the rural economy?

We need to shift economic power from large, private companies and central government towards small businesses, social enterprise and cooperatives with emphasis on local food production and the creation of green jobs through, e.g. renewable energy initiatives.

How will you improve rural transport links?

We will increase the Rural Transport Grant to fund a big rise in the number and range of rural transport services. Taking back our railways into public ownership, re-regulating bus services and investing in safe cycle networks will create genuine integrated transport.

What is your approach towards HS2 and HS3?

HS2 is a London-based vanity project not supported by most local authorities on the route. The £50bn plus price tag would be better spent on creating more resilient regional railways. HS3 would bring a much needed east-west link to the north, but the high-speed element is not needed.

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

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We oppose development that damages sites covered by the European Habitat Directive or Ramsar Convention wetland sites. The importance of these sites in flood and erosion control and water management must be recognised by development policy. We also campaign against ‘biodiversity offsetting’ as a means of justifying development projects that damage biodiversity.