Election special – Liberal Democrat 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 Liberal Democrats

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

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We want to protect green-belt land for generations to come. Balancing this with the needs of communities crying out for more housing means we will make better use of brownfield sites, make more public sector land available and continue our work to bring empty homes back into use where possible.

Do you believe that the ban on hunting with hounds should be repealed?

There are no proposals before Parliament to amend the Hunting Act, and Liberal Democrats have not agreed to make any amendments. However if there is at some point a free vote on whether or not it should be repealed, that would be for individual MPs to vote on.

How will you improve rural broadband access?

We want to extend plans to roll out super-fast broadband to over 99% of the country by the end of the next Parliament. The success so far shows it’s achievable.

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

Badger cull trials in Gloucestershire and Somerset will continue, alongside investment in a vaccine, but we would only support further culls if they are shown to be effective, humane and safe. The TB Eradication Strategy will be fully implemented, to make England TB free within 25 years, while maintaining a viable cattle sector.

How will you stimulate the rural economy?

We need to support young people, investment in transport, broadband and business support. We need to build on the regional growth fund and give more power locally to make decisions.

How will you improve rural transport links?

We provided an additional £6bn to repair, upgrade and develop local road networks and gave communities more power over bus service subsidies. We plan to electrify all rail routes, safeguard many smaller stations and restore twin track lines to major routes.

What is your approach towards HS2 and HS3?

We were the first party to champion High Speed Rail. HS2 will free capacity on the network, create 400,000 jobs, reduce road congestion and domestic flights reliance, and cut journey times between London and the North. HS3 would strengthen economic development in the North.

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

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We have enough information to support decision-making about the environment and development, rather than choose between them. We’re proposing a Nature Act with legal targets to prevent, for example, the decline in biodiversity. Local authorities will have a duty to ensure access, biodiversity and cleanliness levels are maintained or improved.