Memorandum by The Countryside Agency (GF
THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
RULING ON GAP FUNDING SCHEMES FOR URBAN REGENERATION IN ENGLAND
1. The Countryside Agency welcomes the opportunity
to submit views to the Committee, as a follow up to our memorandum
for the Committee's inquiry on the Urban White Paper.
2. Our earlier submission made it clear
that there is a strong interdependence between town and country.
Regeneration policies for urban areas have an effect on rural
areas. Some rural regeneration programmes include small market
towns, which display similar problems to larger urban centres.
The main focus of our concern about the European Commission's
ruling on GAP funding for urban regeneration is, therefore, its
implications for the countryside and for those rural areas in
need of regeneration. We are particularly anxious about the role
of GAP funding in helping to achieve a balance of development
between town and country.
3. We have welcomed the Government's commitment
to make better use of brownfield sites (which also exist in some
rural areas) to accommodate 60 per cent of predicted household
growth. Planning authorities already have the tools to make this
happen. However, often the missing ingredient is the investment
necessary to make these sites as attractive to developers as the
greenfield sites on the edge of town. GAP funding has been a way
of encouraging private sector involvement. Without this, brownfield
site targets may not be met leading to increased building on greenfield
sitesto the detriment of the countryside. An alternative
scheme is essential and would need a fundamental change in the
Government's approach. It would appear to require some significant
fiscal incentiveperhaps based on derelict and vacant land
tax (based on the development envisaged in the approved local
plan)to increase the incentives for landowners not to hold
on to urban sites in the hope of much bigger gains in the future,
while imposing a poor environment on their neighbours.
4. A new regeneration framework should apply
not only to cities, but also to small and medium sized towns,
such as those in rural coalfield areas and coastal resorts, where
the decline can be as severe as in inner cities. Revitalisation
of these smaller towns benefits their rural hinterlands. A new
framework would provide a way of integrating Government policy
towards urban and rural areas.