Session 2010-11
Publications on the internet

To be published as HC 556-i

house of commons

oral evidence

taken before the

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Farming in the Uplands

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Dr Stuart Burgess and Professor mARK Shucksmith

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 67



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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

on Wednesday 27 October 2010

Members present:

Miss Anne McIntosh (Chair)

Thomas Docherty

George Eustice

Mrs Mary Glindon

Neil Parish

Dan Rogerson

Amber Rudd


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Dr Stuart Burgess, Chairman, Commission for Rural Communities, and Professor Mark Shucksmith, Commissioner, Commission for Rural Communities, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair : Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Could I formally open the session? I’m delighted to welcome Dr Burgess. Thank you very much for joining us. I know you have a close connection to North Yorkshire, so it’s a particular pleasure. Would you like to introduce your colleague for the record, Dr Burgess?

Stuart Burgess: I will indeed, if I may. Thank you very much for this opportunity. This is Professor Mark Shucksmith, who is from the University of Newcastle and is a Commissioner with us in the Commission for Rural Communities.

Q2 Chair : You’re both very welcome. Have you had any indications yet from the Government in response to your report?

Stuart Burgess: No.

Q3 Chair : Have the Government pledged to introduce an upland and hill farming strategy, in conversations with you?

Stuart Burgess: Jeremy Eppel is the person who’s promoting this at the moment on behalf of the Government. I met Jeremy yesterday and had a very useful conversation with him. He helpfully mapped out where his thinking was going. He’s been around the country, et cetera. With others, he is formulating a response, hopefully by February.

Q4 Chair : How would you define "uplands"?

Stuart Burgess: This is a very interesting question. We’ve struggled with that. I’ll bring Mark in, if I may, in a moment. If, for example, you focus on Yorkshire for a moment - a familiar territory to yourself and, indeed, to myself, having worked in that space for about 15 years - and if you go to the North Yorkshire Moors, it’s pretty obvious the uplands are there. If you go for example down into the South West, then people may say, "Where are the uplands here?" Mark, I think you, better than I can, will help answer that one.

Professor Shucksmith: Thank you, Stuart. It was a really difficult definitional point. We decided to take a pragmatic approach, in terms of the report that we produced. We defined the uplands in terms of the lessfavoured areas, including both the disadvantaged and the specially disadvantaged areas. Of course, when you do that, you include quite a lot of urban areas as well as rural areas. We were able to differentiate between different subareas within the uplands very much in the meetings that we held, and the evidence that we had from people in the different regions. Quite a lot of the evidence we were given at meetings was people talking about the more upland uplands, if you understand what I mean-what we might imagine in popular imagination to be the uplands. The formal definitions and the statistics we included in the State of the Countryside Update: Uplands cover the Less Favoured Areas in general.

Q5 Chair : Are you hampered by the fact that there’s no statutory definition of "uplands" or "hill farm" generally?

Stuart Burgess: I think that it would be rather nice to have a particular tight definition over all this. The only problem with that is there needs to be some kind of flexibility. Mark rightly talked about the sparsely populated areas or the Less Favoured Areas, but it’s also to do with remoteness. We struggled with this for a long time in our reports. We couldn’t come up with a tightly defined definition, but Mark may wish to comment on that.

Professor Shucksmith: I could refer you to page 26 of our report, which sets out the agonising we did, and we defined the uplands in the end. We talk about the many ways of defining the uplands, and the severely disadvantaged areas. In terms of hampering us, we were just trying to understand the problems and use this for the purposes of an inquiry. We found, pragmatically, a way through it. The question looking forward is whether it would hamper Government in terms of formulating policy. I think the Government will need a definition of the uplands, if they’re going to have an uplands policy, whether they take the same line as us or a more narrowly drawn one. In the context of reviewing the Less Favoured Areas in general anyway, I guess it’s one of the things we’ll look for in their response.

Stuart Burgess: There’s also sheer diversity that is around in the upland areas. Obviously we gathered evidence from Northumberland and Yorkshire, and in Cumbria and the High Peaks, and down to the South West. The sheer diversity that is around in those upland areas is enormous.

Q6 Chair : If you could only salvage three of your recommendations, which three would you choose?

Professor Shucksmith: I was just asked that same question the other day and I boiled it down to four. I think the first one is to have an integrated policy for the uplands, which goes across Government Departments and which allows Government Departments to work together to make sure that the policies work in a coherent and mutually supportive way, rather than getting in the way of one another. The second and related element is to have a champion or at least somebody who has the responsibility within Government and across Government for trying to ensure that.

The third thing would be to address the problem, the issue, of inadequate funding for hill farming producing the public goods and maintaining and looking after the valued assets that we have. I’m sure you’ll want to talk more about that. The fourth thing, if I can add a fourth, is I think one of the really important things in our report, and it is new-as far as I’m aware anyway. It is to emphasise and to recognise the interdependence of the hill farmers and the public goods and assets with the upland communities in which they’re embedded. As one hill farmer told me, it’s not just making a living; it’s making a life worth living, and how you maintain that infrastructure. I would add that fourth.

Stuart Burgess: I would respond in many ways in a very similar basis. I would go for the integrated strategy, because I think that’s absolutely key, and encouraging Departments to work across Government, which is essential. Also around the funding, there has to be some kind of rethink. We struggled in our own meetings with whether many should go up the hill, as it were. Funding is absolutely key to these issues. The whole point of our report is stressing that it’s not just about farming; it’s set within the context of huge potential out there. How is that potential realised, not just for the sake of the hill farmers but also for the sake of upland communities? It is the stress on the upland communities that I think is absolutely key and essential, and almost unique to our report.

Q7 Amber Rudd: Could you tell me what effect you think the abolition of the Commission will have, both on rural communities and on rural policymaking in Government?

Stuart Burgess: Obviously I was rather saddened when it was announced the Commission was going to be abolished, not just for the sake of the staff, because we have some splendid people there, we really have-many of whom are experts in their own particular fields. I value very much the context of the staff and the organisation. It’s had a short life, but we built up some strong hardevidencebased work, and we’re in tune with the rural communities. Through my work as a Rural Advocate especially, I was able to bring that experience of travelling and drilling right down to rural communities into the heart of the Commission, to influence thinking, et cetera, and vice versa as well. I was particularly saddened, and I was saddened for the staff. However, we have to realise that things change. Politically, things change, and we have to be positive and see how things can be developed.

The settingup of the new rural unit is an opportunity for this to happen, bringing at least some of our expertise and a number of people who can populate that in from the Commission, I hope. That will be sorted out, I understand, in the next few weeks. There are some positive signs coming out. I realise of course that the coalition Government wanted to bring the expertise and evidence in-house, and in a Government Department in Defra, and I look forward to seeing how strong this will be.

The downside of all this is that it’s interesting to note-I may be right in this but forgive me if I’m wrong-that this is the first time since Lloyd George that we haven’t had an arm’s length body out there concerned for rural communities. We’ve tried to build up an independent voice, not hostage to any Government-certainly in my role as Rural Advocate one of the things I feel very strongly about is that I’m totally independent and have worked on that passionately. It is this independent voice that could easily be lost, but we are where we are, and we have to make the best of it. I said to Caroline Spelman that I would work for the well-being of the settingup of the new rural unit, and I will continue to do that.

Q8 Amber Rudd: Do you have a view yet on which elements of the Commission will be taken into Defra?

Stuart Burgess: I think the parts that are particularly concerned with the evidencebased work and working with stakeholders, for example; those two areas will be taken into Defra. Obviously I rejoice at that, and I hope that we, through the Unit, will be able to produce some good evidencebased work, working with our stakeholders, and also representing rural communities. That is very important, I think. Over the last few years, through the role of the Rural Advocate and the work of the Commission, we have built this up, especially in terms of speaking on behalf of the rural disadvantaged, for example, in rural communities, because I have a great commitment to the disadvantaged, especially in rural areas but also in urban areas. For the disadvantaged, this area of work could be lost, but I hope not.

Professor Shucksmith: Could I just add to that? Stuart’s covered most of what I would want to say as well. Clearly we hope that the Rural Communities Policy Unit is a success and it will be at the heart of Government, and it’s taking the people connected with policy and analysis and also the Rural Development Programme for England Network into the Policy Unit. The only slight worry that I have about that, apart from obviously the process of transition and upheavals, is the Commission for Rural Communities has as its strapline that it’s concerned with rural disadvantage. We were set up by Parliament to try to particularly focus on rural disadvantage, and I don’t think at the moment that’s in the terms of reference of the Rural Communities Policy Unit. I hope that they will also have that concern.

The other point is that, being outside Government, when we’ve given advice it has been public; it has been transparent. That advice has been not only to Government; it has also been available to rural communities and people in rural communities, which would seem to fit rather well with the idea of the Big Society, community empowerment and localism. I hope that the analysis, advice and workings of the Policy Unit are available not only to Government behind closed doors, but are also available to communities in rural areas.

Q9 Amber Rudd: There has been some questioning though of whether advocacy by a publicly funded body, a quango in effect, is the right use of public money. I know the Secretary of State raised that on Farming Today, saying that the public might be surprised to find that their money was being used as advocacy for a particular group. Do you have a view on that particular comment perhaps?

Professor Shucksmith: I think that’s largely a matter for Government and for Parliament. We were given a statutory responsibility by Parliament to be Rural Advocates, expert advisers and rural watchdogs, with a particular focus on rural disadvantage, and that’s what we did.

Q10 Amber Rudd: Do you think that Defra will have sufficient strength to represent and to advocate for rural communities, once that responsibility is absorbed into Defra?

Stuart Burgess: My hope would be that that would be the case. Certainly the role of the Rural Advocate, as I interpreted it, was about going around and travelling extensively, drilling right down to rural communities and listening very closely to their concerns and their needs, and having an overview from a national perspective. That could easily be lost in all this, if we’re not careful, which I think would be very sad.

Q11 George Eustice: Turning to your report on the uplands, I wonder if you can tell me what it was that persuaded you to do a report in this area. Was there a particular challenge that’s come recently or a particular set of evidence that made you think this particular Commission was necessary?

Stuart Burgess: That’s a very interesting question. It spans the last 20 years of my life, to be perfectly honest. Working up in Yorkshire as a church leader, I spent a lot of time with the hill farmers up there, realising that there could be a potential difficulty and a problem in the future, bearing in mind their low incomes. It wasn’t just that; it was the knockon effect. The particular role I had was the relationship to communities as well, and putting it in the focus of rural communities. When I was appointed Rural Advocate and Chair of the Commission for Rural Communities, I particularly went around other areas, other than Yorkshire, for example in Northumberland, and especially up in Cumbria. It was on visits to Cumbria that I saw not only the problem but also the potential that could be there around hill farming and hill farming communities.

In my report to the then Prime Minister, my Rural Advocate’s Report, I said I thought there was a piece of work that needed to be done around the future of hill farming. There has been a lot of work done in the last 20 years, and Mark has been instrumental in some of that. It would be, if you like, a fresh look, not only at the hill farming, but putting it in the context, as I would reemphasise, of rural communities. It was the Prime Minister who came back and said, as many people often do, "You’ve identified a piece of work. Why don’t you get on and do a piece of work about it?" That’s the origins of it and how it came to be. A number of the commissioners have been incredibly helpful over this, Mark included, and members of staff. We have really put our thinking caps on and came up with-I’m a bit biased obviously-a pretty good report.

Q12 George Eustice: Are the challenges the same, effectively, between all the different upland communities that you mention?

Stuart Burgess: There are many similarities between them, but obviously the geographical areas and the demographic areas, of for example the South West and up in Cumbria and Northumberland, are quite different. The context is quite different. If you go, for example, into the High Peak area, the context there is in the close proximity of large urban areas. If you go into other upland areas, you don’t get that same context, and it is a context that is absolutely critical to all this. The challenges are across the piece and across the board, and we have identified many similar strands linking those upland communities.

Professor Shucksmith: If I can just add to that, I think each upland area is different, in so far as everybody we spoke to was very proud of their own area and its traditions, and was keen to point out what was special about it. The processes of change, the cost of providing public services for example, the measures that are there in support of hill farming, processes of housing change, all these things, were acting on all the areas. Clearly the more urban areas in the High Peak were affected in a different way from north Northumberland. The Lake District, with all the tourist pressures, would be different from an upland area that didn’t have those tourist pressures, but there seemed to be common processes for the most part to varying degrees, overlaid on what were historically and culturally different places.

Q13 George Eustice: You’re right: it’s a very detailed piece of work; you take huge amounts of evidence. Is there anything that you wish that you had spent more time on or developed? You had a little bit of criticism from the NFU and the Countryside Alliance saying that it didn’t come up with the answers.

Stuart Burgess: If I had more time, where would I concentrate? I was fascinated and taken up by the potential of carbon storage in the uplands. We touched on this in one of our sections, as you may have gathered. I was inspired by the work that the University of Nottingham is doing. It is linking up with other universities, and pioneering some very interesting work. It also obviously links up to the assets in the upland areas; how all this could be tapped into and also how potential money could be generated. If I had more time and perhaps a more scientific mind, I would like to really tease out what are the implications of potential carbon storage, and the money that could be made there for the hill farmers.

Q14 George Eustice: Since you’ve published this report-I know the Chair asked you earlier whether you’ve had a response from Defra-is there anything they’ve put in train in terms of their policy, since the new Government, that has addressed some of the issues you’ve highlighted? Is there anything you’d be encouraged by in the last few months that has come out from Defra?

Stuart Burgess: I’ve been encouraged by what the Secretary of State Caroline Spelman has said. She has welcomed the report. I had a meeting with her. Also through Richard Benyon and Jim Paice I picked up some very good signals and signs, which are very welcoming. I think the intention there-coming from the vibes I’m picking up-is pretty clear. Yes, this is an interesting report. It has some detail and some hard evidencebased work around it, which is obviously what we have produced. I’m hopeful that some of the recommendations will be implemented. Obviously, we would like all of them to be implemented, but we are realistic people. We hope that the majority of them will be. There are particular signs around broadband issues, for example, that are coming out, which I would applaud. The work around the National Parks, for example, and the structure and the report coming out in January around the National Parks could address some of the particular issues that we’ve raised. I’m pretty hopeful at the moment that this report is being taken seriously, and that a number of our recommendations will be acted on.

I also know that the wider backcloth of this is that many people out there in upland areas are coming out in favour of our report, and are making that known politically to their own local politicians, a number of whom have been incredibly helpful and supportive, saying, "This is important." They’re also saying to me that, if we miss this opportunity, we’ve missed it for a long period of time.

Professor Shucksmith: If I could add briefly to that, I think it is very encouraging the way that so many different groups and individuals have come out in support of our recommendations and analysis. We are very pleased that the Government are going to make a policy statement on the uplands. It looks like that is due in February. In terms of one or two specific things that have happened-I don’t say that they’re because of our report, but they’re things that we did want-the rural broadband pilots, which were announced last week for Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Herefordshire and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, are a good start there. The Big Society pilots, particularly the one in Eden Valley, I understand from colleagues, are really trying to move on the arguments about community engagement, local action and community plans, with the support of a senior planner from CLG. The Community Right to Build, I don’t know that it’s the finished article yet, but there is a consultation process going on. It does seem to accept the need for affordable housing in small settlements, and that the community should be engaged in that.

Having said all of that, there are also things that work against some of our recommendations. Clearly in the context of spending cuts, the reduction in funding for local authorities in particular is going to have an impact on local services. There is a worry, even more than when we reported, about how that might affect services in the uplands; similarly, the reductions in the budget of Homes and Communities Agency in relation to affordable housing. There are some very encouraging signs, and some where we might have to wait a bit longer until the times are a bit better.

Q15 George Eustice: Quite a few of those things you’ve mentioned obviously are common to all rural areas. Did you identify any specific challenges that affect only the uplands and that are very different to remote rural areas generally?

Professor Shucksmith: They are challenges that affect everywhere, but they’re more extreme in the uplands, so the challenge of providing public services in remote, sparsely populated communities is a much greater challenge than providing it in the commuter belt around London or around Newcastle. There is a real challenge there. In our report, we’ve called for some innovation, for example in trying to find ways in which the voluntary community sector could work with local councils in finding new ways of delivering services in such challenging terrain. There’s a question about how that will be affected by the context of spending cuts and the other demands that are being placed on the voluntary sector. As one instance, again in relation to housing, costs are often higher, schemes tend to be smaller, the terrain is worse, and there tend to be requirements for local materials-Lake District green slate or whatever it happens to be-which tend to push up costs. If the Homes and Communities Agency, for example, is trying to get the most houses for their money, they will probably not be building them in the uplands.

Stuart Burgess: There are examples around broadband provision of course, which is much easier to roll out in lowland areas than it is up in the upland areas. There are some marvellous examples of where it has been rolled out. I would argue very strongly that broadband in upland areas is quite critical. That’s another example of how it varies and differs.

Q16 George Eustice: I wanted to ask about hill farming specifically. Do you take the view that basically the viability and the state of hill farming is absolutely central to the state of our upland communities?

Stuart Burgess: I believe it is. In terms of the management of land and coping with the environment and so on, I think hill farming is critical within that wider context. Keeping the hill farmers up there is, in my book, essential.

Professor Shucksmith: In relation to hill farming, there is a further difference between uplands and other rural areas, because essentially hill farming is not viable without the support of the European Union. That’s the reason for the support. That’s the logic in the Less Favoured Area Payments designed to safeguard the continuation of farming in particular regions where it would be threatened in the absence of the compensatory allowances. That’s the whole basis of them. Now, hill farms are continuing. They’re often continuing because of a combination of the farm income and offfarm work. There’s a question there immediately that points to the intertwining of the wider rural economy, hill farming and the public goods. We have to think about how to maintain that broader rural economy, so that there is that offfarm income coming in to maintain the hill farms. That’s not enough, because we also want to have the right land management practices incentivised, which support and maintain those valued landscapes, that biodiversity and all the other public goods.

In the lowlands, one can try to achieve the management and the maintenance of those public goods, because those businesses are fundamentally profitmaking. You can impose regulations or try to work with people. There isn’t a threat to the continuation of the business. In the uplands, it’s whether the business can survive at all. You can’t just do it by regulation. You have to give them the financial support, otherwise they won’t be there to maintain those assets. That’s a qualitative difference between upland hill farming support and the lowlands. It’s absolutely essential.

Stuart Burgess: I think it is far easier to diversify in the lowland farming community than it is in the upland communities, where it is far more difficult to bring other income in from diversification.

Q17 Mrs Glindon: You started to talk about the economic issues, and why you’ve said those challenges are across the board. With the current economic climate, is it feasible to continue to provide economic support to all upland farmers or should we be focusing the resources that we have on particular areas, such as National Parks?

Stuart Burgess: I would say personally that it has to be all areas, and I say that against the context of what happens to the land if you take off some of the hill farmers. We know what happens to the land: it quickly deteriorates; it quickly goes back into scrub. In the context also of those communities, I personally wouldn’t want to withdraw out of any upland areas. It is absolutely crucial to stay there for the management of land purposes, but also for the sake of the community. I realise that money is going to be tight and where we are economically, but let us see this as potential and as an opportunity, rather than as a time of withdrawing. This report is also about being innovative, pushing out the boat and looking for solutions. We realise that Government can maybe only come up with some solutions, but in our report we’ve also referred back to another report that we did, a participation inquiry, about the responsibility of trying to develop that potential from local communities. I’ve seen some marvellous work where people have just got together and, almost against all the odds, have produced something that is very entrepreneurial and innovative. We have to encourage people to do that, especially in the upland areas.

Professor Shucksmith: There is a case for targeting, but I don’t think it’s which bits of the uplands you target; I think it’s targeting the available European funding more on the uplands and less perhaps in some areas where it’s not being very wisely spent. I don’t mean necessarily geographical areas; I mean particular aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy that are not a very efficient use of money. There are many studies that have been done by the European Court of Auditors, our own Government and previous Governments pointing to many potential reforms that could be made in the Common Agricultural Policy. It seems to me that the funding that is required to address these issues in the uplands is relatively small in relation to the money that is available through the Common Agricultural Policy. Better targeting, more efficient use of those funds, could allow upland and hill farmers to be supported more adequately, even in the current economic climate.

Q18 Mrs Glindon: So, selective criteria wouldn’t really work; you would want to look at the benefits reaching all communities and not try to minimise funding to selected areas? You wouldn’t want to say, "We support this area, but we’ll withdraw funds from another." Do you think there needs to still be a broad basis of support?

Stuart Burgess: I would really go for a broad base of support.

Professor Shucksmith: I think a broad basis of support as well but, nevertheless, saying we particularly want to focus funding on areas where there are these public goods and valued assets, and you can define those in various ways. You could say areas of high nature value, or you could say National Parks were another aspect. There will be several dimensions-biodiversity, carbon. Try to make sure the money is targeted on those outputs. Even beyond all that, there is still this fundamental point I’ve made that you need to ensure the continuity of the businesses in the hills. Even beyond funding the particular aspects, there is the question: how do we make sure that hill farming survives? The alternative is to lose these valued assets, and they’re very important to the public at large. We know that.

Q19 Thomas Docherty: In chapter 5 of your report, the conclusions, the first recommendation that you came up with was to develop a national strategy for the uplands. How would you or how have you recommended to the Government that they go about delivering this recommendation?

Stuart Burgess: The national strategy is an integrated strategy, which is what we really came out with. I think it’s about doing some joinedup thinking across Government Departments. What we’ve done is to realise that, okay, this was a concentration on the hill farmers and the uplands, but it’s impinged upon many other Government Departments. If we’re not careful, we see things as piecemeal, but what we’re aiming for is some very strong joinedup thinking between Government Departments, making a link so the integrated strategy is building upon those particular recommendations that we’ve made, and making sure that, through a rural champion for example, this could be the focal point of taking on many of the recommendations that we made, which we realise are medium and long term, and they need to be worked out. It can be done; it can be worked out in a very simple structured way.

Professor Shucksmith: Let us look at the types of areas that we’re making recommendations in: farming, yes, which is clearly Defra; broadband, which is I think the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; businesses, BIS; planning and housing, local government and services, CLG. Clearly, if you’re going to provide a joinedup response to the issues and challenges and the potential of upland communities, then one somehow has to try to embrace all those Departments working together. What is the appropriate way of doing that? There are a number of ways you could do it: you could have somebody within the Cabinet Office; you could have somebody externally. There are different ways. The important thing for us isn’t the particular model; it’s that all those Departments should be working together.

Stuart Burgess: To come back to you, we struggled with this because, as Mark has said, we talked about having somebody in the Cabinet Office, and having somebody particularly responsible at that level. That is in the end going to be how Government will make their decision. If requested, we could fill that out and make some more recommendations around that, because we’ve done quite a lot of thinking already. We wouldn’t want to come up with one particular model, but make sure that, across the Government Departments-this is the key-there is some joinedup thinking, taking up the issues of the upland communities.

Q20 Thomas Docherty: The Government are promoting the concept of localism quite a lot. How would you advise a national strategy be balanced with trying to empower communities? You’ve made a reference earlier on in the document to the Countryside Alliance complaining there wasn’t enough actual local decision-making being made on some of the bodies.

Stuart Burgess: I think that’s a very interesting question, and I’m personally committed to localism, community empowerment and the voluntary and community sector, for example, in which I’ve worked for many years. I come back to a key word that always speaks to me around these particular issues, "subsidiarity". The word "subsidiarity" essentially means that there are different levels where decisions are going to be made, and that they’re made in the best interests for the people. Some decisions are best made locally, for example. I know the coalition Government are putting great stress on the local initiatives around housing, for example; but there are certain things in our report, we would suggest, about the national assets, for example around carbon storage and water sequestration, which would probably involve decisionmaking at the highest level, because some strategic, directive thinking needs to be done on those issues.

I’m totally convinced that subsidiarity, taking the decisions at the appropriate levels, is the best way forward. If you look at our report, we can see some issues, like the ones I’ve just referred to about housing or broadband, for example, around the community networks - although again strategic decisions around funding have to be made perhaps elsewhere. That’s how I cope with both being a great believer in localism and community empowerment, but also saying there are certain decisions to be made at a different level, and perhaps a higher level, if you want to talk in those terms, than the local level.

Professor Shucksmith: I agree very much with Stuart. We’re committed to localism, community engagement and community capacitybuilding. As we travelled around to our meetings in different regions, different upland areas, one of the themes that came through very strongly was that people in the uplands felt they didn’t have a voice in decisions that were being taken in terms of national policies and even in terms of their local authorities on many occasions. They particularly pointed to national organisations like Natural England, where they felt that their local knowledge was not valued and not taken into account, and expert knowledge was imposed on them whereas, in their view, better decisions would have been reached over things like stocking rates and so on if there had been a valuing of their local knowledge as well as the expert knowledge. We’re very committed to bringing local people and local knowledge into the management of the uplands and the development of upland communities.

It is not sufficient to leave that to localism, because there are processes that operate at national and even international levels, and decisions and policies that are decided nationally and internationally have huge impacts. The Common Agricultural Policy is an obvious example but, equally, decisions on funding for the Homes and Communities Agency or any of the other Spending Review decisions that were taken last week. You have to have the national as well, both so as to give power locally, but also to make these vertical connections, because there are necessarily vertical relations between the different levels of Government, and that’s quite right and proper.

Q21 Thomas Docherty: You talk quite a lot in your report about the principle of a national integrated strategy, but there’s not a vast amount of flesh on the bones in the report about how it would be delivered or what it would prioritise. Obviously each area has different issues and priorities. You’ve now touched upon this idea of not a rural tsar, because that’s counterintuitive to the idea of the quango, but a rural champion. Beyond that, what else do you see in relation to how it can or should be delivered?

Stuart Burgess: We homed in on the rural champion, mainly because I think that a national strategy has to have some focal point in it and having a person concerned. There’s a sense in which this idea of having somebody who’s going to have some responsibility for the upland communities has at least been picked up in the new rural unit. Whether that goes as far as we want, I doubt, because I think we need somebody right at the top level of Government, in the Cabinet Office, for example, which is very different. On the other hand, if you have a person whose focus is on promoting all that is right and good that we think is in this report, and making those connections between Government Departments, that must be for the good. Now, I realise you want us to put a bit more flesh on that, but there’s a sense in which that it is a very political question. I personally feel we would provide some more flesh if required, but I think it is for the politicians to make those particular decisions.

Professor Shucksmith: First of all, we’re not saying there should be a rural tsar; we’re saying somebody should have responsibility in Government. The label of tsar has tended to be on people brought in from the outside-business people or whoever who are experts and big names. We’re talking about somebody who might well be a Minister and probably would be a Minister-somebody who would have responsibility.

In terms of putting flesh on the bones, I would have thought that we have these first few recommendations that are setting the conditions for change, including the new integrated strategy, the leadership and empowering communities, but then all our other recommendations are, it seems to me, putting flesh on the bones. It may be that some of them aren’t as worked out as you might like. We felt, for example, that it was inappropriate to try to prescribe detailed mechanisms within the Common Agricultural Policy at a time when the Common Agricultural Policy is about to be reformed, and there will be lots of negotiations and things will fall out in ways that might be a little unpredictable. We thought we should set the principles that were desirable, rather than say, "It should be this article". For many things, we’re very clear about what needs to be done, but we’re happy to try to address any things that you feel are not there.

Q22 Thomas Docherty: Obviously one of the great tensions in any type of report is about longerterm goals versus shorterterm priorities or quick wins, I guess. I know the National Farmers Union and others are urging a concentration on what can be delivered relatively quickly, with gains for the uplands. Two parts to this. Have you discussed the idea of some quick wins with Defra? Secondly, if you have, what is your advice as to what those shorter-term gains or quick wins could or might be?

Stuart Burgess: The quick wins for me would be around, certainly, a commitment, which I think is coming in Defra now, on working through an integrated strategy, whatever sort of flesh you put on that, and around the rural champion. That is something that could easily be put into place. Certainly, around the broadband issues, there may well be some quick wins, because there is a commitment from the coalition Government to broadband. Broadband is the second major issue out there in rural communities. The first one is affordable housing; the second one is broadband, without hesitation. In some areas, broadband is actually taking over from affordable housing, mainly because people have given up on affordable housing in rural communities. For example, if you go to Brancaster in Norfolk, 75% of the homes there are owned by secondhome owners. There are other instances that you can pick up. Broadband is an absolute key here. With what is being rolled out and a pilot scheme being initiated, all this is good and these are the quick wins.

The longerterm things are the ones I referred to, for example, in an answer around carbon storage, and obviously the CAP reform is medium to long term. It just depends how we’re thinking in terms of medium and long term. That is obviously within a European context. There are some quick wins, sending out the signals to those upland communities: first, that this report is being taken seriously; and secondly, that certain things are going to happen from it, whatever those particular things may be. This would be a strong commitment that we are on the side of upland communities, which in the past have felt pretty disadvantaged out there, and to help them.

Professor Shucksmith: I agree that the policy statement in itself will be a quick win, and that’s very important. Apart from the things that Stuart has mentioned, some other potential quick wins or things that could be done fairly readily, not necessarily by Defra- they may be by other Departments-are changes to planning guidance, which can be done quite quickly. Checking that the Regional Growth Fund addresses upland areas and rural areas is something fairly imminent. Trying to change the culture within organisations like Natural England so that there is a valuing of local knowledge and working with communities, again, is something that I think is already recognised as necessary. Trying to ensure the takeup of the Uplands Entry Level Scheme and removing any remaining barriers to that. These are all things that can be done fairly quickly.

Things that take a little longer-obviously, we have to wait for CAP reform-are things that require legislation; for example, if there was to be a third purpose for National Parks, as we’ve suggested in the report, that, I guess, takes a little longer. Getting multidepartmental action, getting the Departments working together, may take a little while, I guess. If we’re really thinking about the longer term, it is beyond the next few years, beyond the period of austerity when there is funding again, when we really have to think about investment in services and in housing.

Q23 Chair : On super-fast broadband, will that make an appreciable economic effect in the uplands and hill farms?

Stuart Burgess: I believe it will. For example, if you go to Alston Moor up in Cumbria, where I’ve been, where it has been rolled out, local people have been putting down fibreoptic cables linking 423 households together. Going into some of those households and also some of the rural businesses that have been developed there, it can make a huge difference.

Q24 Chair : Have you done a costbenefit analysis at all?

Stuart Burgess: There has been one done.

Professor Shucksmith: We haven’t done it ourselves, but I have some of the figures here. These are from Daniel Heery at Cybermoor in Alston. His figures are that they’ve surveyed a sample of businesses taking up broadband in the 24 enabled exchange areas. They’ve estimated that it’s enabled the proportion of businesses to increase turnover to £36.8 million and GVA by £14.7 million. I think the key figures are that, in terms of value for money, it costs just 9p to generate a net additional £1 of turnover, and it costs just 23p to generate a net additional £1 of gross value added. Their research also showed an initial 25% increase in property prices when broadband was rolled out. There clearly are some quantifiable impacts.

Q25 Chair : Could you provide that written evidence for us to incorporate, please?

Stuart Burgess: Certainly, no problem. We can certainly do that.

Q26 Dan Rogerson: A couple of issues: I want to follow up on the discussion about broadband and a couple of things just rounding off the discussion about leadership, which you’ve touched on in your reply to Thomas already. First of all on broadband, have you looked into the schemes that are being proposed? Where it isn’t possible to get fibre to places and the schemes will look at satellite and other technologies, I have a concern that, given that those technologies are higher cost in terms of their operation once they’re in, that will be passed on through the ISPs to customers, and therefore building in a disadvantage again for those very rural consumers. Is that something that you have a view on or have looked at, at all?

Stuart Burgess: I’ve picked that up, especially travelling down to the South West, with the difficulty there and the different ratio of costings. I absolutely agree with you there. Let’s be honest: there is no easy answer to this, is there? You can argue on one hand and the other hand. I was asked in a meeting, if I had a pot of money, where would I put it? I would put it, if I was in Government and had a pot of money to give away, in broadband, because the knockon effect is that the rural economy can grow tremendously. This is the spinoff and the knockon. I can give you evidence around it. To answer your question, I think it’s an incredibly difficult one. Do you have any reflection on this one? I have picked it up and resonate with exactly what you’re saying.

Q27 Dan Rogerson: It is a slightly leading question, but it’s leading into where there is to be some sort of public involvement and public money in doing these things, all through various schemes. The cost to the end user, regardless of where you are, in terms of the tariffs, is the same, even if the technology used is slightly different. Would you see a potential problem for people in these areas again being disadvantaged if there’s a high cost?

Professor Shucksmith: Indeed, it would be a problem if that’s how it worked, yes.

Stuart Burgess: I remember going to a village near Helston, where this particular point was made in a village hall. You’re just echoing what I heard there.

Q28 Dan Rogerson: Coming back to the leadership issues, you’ve talked about how perhaps the vision that you had to pursue a national strategy would have been that a Minister would take ownership of it and do that. Other people have come up with other possibilities. The NFU has talked about problems with different circumstances in different areas and, therefore, that a forum approach might be better; some form of national forum that took over the implementation of this. What would your view be on that?

Stuart Burgess: We talked about a number of these issues, but we came down to, as Mark has rightly said, our preferred option being a Minister in the Cabinet Office, because we came to believe that would give the upland communities the support and, if you like, the clout for the report to make a difference, but we talked about what the NFU has said as well.

Q29 Chair : Can I just interrupt and ask why the Cabinet Office and not Defra?

Professor Shucksmith: The argument and our thinking was that we need to have something that will be able to get action in all the other Government Departments as well as in Defra. So many of these issues are issues for other Departments. Now, it may well be that Defra will be able to influence planning and housing and other spending decisions, and CLG and decisions in BIS and so on. Often, where there are crosscutting issues of this sort of importance, it’s a Minister in the Cabinet Office, as I understand it. That’s only one model and I’m sure there are people who know more about that than we do.

Stuart Burgess: It was the crosscutting issues that we felt were pretty fundamental to all this, although a Minister in Defra could actually do it. We came to the conclusion that, if we wanted our ideal, we would go for a person in the Cabinet Office, because of the crosscutting issues.

Q30 Thomas Docherty: For clarification on the role of this Minister, to what extent is it a fulltime role or do you see it simply as embellishing another bit of the job description Ministers have? How much time do you see the Minister for uplands spending on the issue?

Stuart Burgess: I would go for 50% if you pushed me.

Professor Shucksmith: I don’t know what the figure would be, but the important thing is that they are able to provide the advocacy and the point of responsibility for the uplands policy being generated, so that people in other Departments do actually work and are led. That’s the important thing.

Q31 Neil Parish: The Hill Farm Allowance has gone basically, and we’ve moved on to the Uplands Entry Level Stewardship schemes. Are you in a position yet to really tell us what you think the effects are going to be of that? The next question is very much a back-up on that.

Professor Shucksmith: No, we’re not. That’s why we’ve called in one of our recommendations for a review at the earliest possible stage and, at the latest, by 2012, because it’s clearly very important that it works, and it is a time of transition.

Stuart Burgess: It’s a very important question and, indeed, we spent a lot of time talking about this, but, in the end, we realise that this is a time that a review is being sought, and we must go for it and stick with it.

Q32 Neil Parish: That leads me on to the next question really and that is that, moving from the Hill Farm Allowance, it looks like the money may go towards the landowner and not necessarily the tenant and the commoners. Of course, the commoners are very important in getting stock out on to the hill. What are your views on that, because that’s so important?

Professor Shucksmith: That’s one of our worries and that point needs to be addressed. It’s clearly not going to work if the money goes to the landlord rather than the tenant. I believe you’ll be getting evidence from the Tenant Farmers Association on that very point. We would agree that that needs to be addressed.

Q33 Neil Parish: What would be your solution?

Professor Shucksmith: I think you’d get a better view from the Tenant Farmers Association on the detail of that. We are just aware of the problem, and whatever the appropriate solution is depends to some extent on the reforms that come through in the Common Agricultural Policy, and the ways in which money is going to be directed in the future. This is one of the areas where we tried to set out principles, rather than the precise mechanisms, I think.

Stuart Burgess: I’ve spent a lot of time with tenant farmers, and appreciate that, in many ways, they have particular issues and particular problems, some of which you’ve alluded to really. They put a lot of their hope in CAP reform, and what’s going to happen over the future of CAP, because they realise they are in an incredibly difficult situation, which they are in many places, certainly up in the upland areas. That’s their hope at the moment but, I guess, as Mark has rightly said, you are hearing from them first hand.

Q34 Chair : Could I just intervene and ask a general question and then a specific question? On the CAP, I understand that we are unique in having difficulties in the moneys percolating down to the tenant farmers. Is that a correct understanding?

Stuart Burgess: That’s my understanding.

Professor Shucksmith: That’s my understanding.

Q35 Chair : We really need to make representations in the reform to make sure that that is impressed upon them.

Stuart Burgess: Yes.

Q36 Chair : I know you took evidence in Cumbria, and I think you’ll be familiar with the situation in North Yorkshire. There’s a rather alarming development developing among the commoners, between certain landlords and certain of the commoners. It’s causing real concern. I have to say that some Upland Entry Level Stewardship schemes are still not in place, because they’ve not reached an agreement. I know the work of the Tenant Farmers Association and I applaud the work, but who should be intervening to support the tenant? I know in North Yorkshire we have a Court Leet, which is a rather splendid -

Stuart Burgess: A splendid title.

Chair : A splendid person as well. Who do you believe should be representing the rights of tenants in these negotiations that, in the two areas I’m aware of, are not reaching a conclusion? You can confer among yourselves.

Professor Shucksmith: I don’t think we know. We spoke to commoners and we heard a lot of very effective and convincing evidence from commoners and from tenant farmers, and we were very sympathetic to their point of view. The question that you’ve asked as to who should be representing them in this point, I don’t think we have a view on.

Chair : I’m happy to represent mine.

Stuart Burgess: Sorry about that.

Chair : That’s very kind of you.

Q37 Neil Parish: This question is very much linked in a way, and that is about stocking rates and local stocking rates. I represent Devon and part of the West Country, where you can argue that the stocking rates perhaps need to be higher because of the mild climate. How do you get a nonbureaucratic system that deals with this? If we don’t get the right stocking rates, you don’t get the land looked after properly from an environmental point of view. You don’t, in the long run, possibly get access to your countryside either. If you go to some parts of Dartmoor and Exmoor, you see it’s so overgrown. What would be your idea there?

Professor Shucksmith: This came up at every regional meeting, the issue of stocking rates and the destocking of the hills to levels that farmers told us were below the optimal level. They were looking forward confidently to being able to prove the Natural England experts wrong in the future. Now, of course we weren’t going out to look at the hills. We’re not environmental experts. We couldn’t say that one is right or one is wrong. All we can say is that we were continually told, everywhere we went, that expert knowledge was applied in the face of local knowledge, and that this was a cause of resentment. We were also given lots of stories of how this then did lead to "what we told you all along", sort of thing. Now, it seemed to us that we’re not the people to say the stocking rate should be this or that. What we would advocate is that there should be greater recognition of local knowledge, bringing together and recognising the mutual value of expert knowledge and local knowledge. One of the quotations that stuck in our mind was somebody said, "These people, they come out here fresh out of university"-speaking as somebody who works in the university teaching students-"and they’re extremely educated and knowledgeable about everything, except experience." This did seem to us to resonate.

Our view is that what you need to try to achieve is, first of all, a cultural change on the part of the organisations that make these decisions, so that they admit the value of local knowledge and experience. Secondly, perhaps move towards more participative approaches in general. There were a number of experiments that we had presented to us. For example, farmers in the catchment area around Loweswater-and there were other catchmentareabased approaches-worked together with officials from the relevant Government agencies on what would be a good way of approaching the management of the resources. Stocking rate was one of the elements in that. We would like to see more examples, more trialling of that sort of approach, and more support for that sort of approach.

Stuart Burgess: It’s interesting that down in Devon this is a particular issue.

Neil Parish: It is, for the commoners as well as the farmers.

Stuart Burgess: Absolutely. I’ve spent many hours with many farmers down there, on this very issue. I think one has to be a little wary of some local knowledge. On the other hand, it’s not just about local knowledge; it’s also local wisdom. Wisdom is, I think, quite different from knowledge, and it is the wisdom and experience coming out of some of those farmers down in Devon and down in the South West, which they feel and I also felt was not really being recognised in the places that it should be. I resonate exactly with what we’ve said.

Professor Shucksmith: Could I point you to the bottom of page 93, top of page 94, in our report, which deals with these and provides some quotes on these points?

Q38 Neil Parish: Can I ask you one that’s sort of linked, I think, to stocking rates? Did you look at all-probably you didn’t-to Wales and Scotland? The reason I ask you this question-it’s a loaded one-is that the system of payment, as you well know, moved from being on per sheep, per suckler cow, and all went into the Single Farm Payment. The Welsh farmers and the Scottish farmers were paid on a historic basis, whereas the English farmers have this complicated system of seriously disadvantaged, nonseriously disadvantaged and Moorland Line, and so the farmers, in a way, have not only lost out through perhaps Hill Farm payment, but they’re also losing out on stocking rate through this spreading of the payment. I think that needs to be looked at again. Of course, you talk about further reform of CAP, but did you look at something called Article 68?

Stuart Burgess: We did.

Q39 Neil Parish: What’s your conclusion?

Stuart Burgess: We did, but can I just make a comment about Wales and Scotland? We have to be pretty careful here, because we’re only concerned for England. On the other hand, we went into the borderland around Herefordshire, for example, and we also had papers coming out of Wales. Mark did the crofting report up in Scotland, so we were well connected from that point of view, but we have to be a little careful, as I’m sure you would very much appreciate. Mark will probably fill in.

Professor Shucksmith: I’m not sure that I can immediately give you chapter and verse on Article 68. It’s a while since I looked at that. It was one of the possibilities, as I’m trying to recall. That’s one of the possibilities where you can top slice the Single Farm Payment. I would think that’s worth exploring. Certainly, when I chaired the Commission inquiry into the future of crofting in Scotland, and straying from my CRC hat here, we recommended that Article 68 should be used as a means of trying to support farming in the remote rural areas of Scotland. I can’t speak about Wales but, in Scotland, I have in my possession maps of where the Less Favoured Area payments go in Scotland compared with where the high nature value and the public goods are. They’re not to the same places: the Less Favoured Area payments in Scotland were kept on a historic basis and, as I recall, the formula that decides where they go to was the result of many iterations and applications of the formula, until they got a formula that gave the money to the same people who’d always had it. There’s a real issue there about the targeting of the LFA payments, but that’s not the point you’re making; they have stuck with the historic basis.

Q40 Neil Parish: Bluntly, do you consider the Scottish hill farmer is getting a better payment in the end than the English hill farmer is?

Professor Shucksmith: It depends very much where they are in Scotland. If they’re in the southern uplands, then probably yes, I guess. I haven’t done the calculation, so it’s a tentative "yes". If they’re a crofter in some of the areas with the greatest high-nature value, certainly not.

Q41 Thomas Docherty: Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood this, but at the moment, farmers are told what they are to do very clearly on stocking rates, rather than an approach that says, "This is the outcome we want to achieve and we’ll leave it up to you; give you local flexibility to determine how you would achieve that outcome." Could I put to you that it might be more effective if the emphasis was shifted, so that it was the latter approach that simply says, "This is the goal. You, as the farmer, would be able to use your local knowledge to decide how to do it"?

Stuart Burgess: Absolutely, that is what I support.

Professor Shucksmith: We’ve discussed this at length, and we’re all in agreement on that point. Quite apart from being focused on the outcomes and giving greater freedom, responsibility and initiative to farmers-an approach they would almost certainly welcome, so long as the outcome measures were ones that were appropriate-the other great virtue of that method is that it encourages innovation and diversity, so that the likelihood is that different people would try different ways of trying to reach those outcomes. That could be a learning experience, so we might find better ways of doing it. We’re very much in favour of that.

Q42 Chair : Could I just ask a question linking stocking to the common land? Where the graziers have rights in perpetuity, would you agree that should be continued without interference from the landowner or the landlord, in other respects, who may have other rights on the land?

Professor Shucksmith: Indeed, yes. Clearly there are complex issues around trying to negotiate reductions in stocking rates or increases in stocking rates over common land, but we wouldn’t wish to challenge the principle that the rights should remain.

Chair : Thank you very much. That was very helpful.

Q43 Neil Parish: Research and development in the uplands: what are the key themes that you refer to in your recommendations? You’ve also been talking about ruminants in particular and how to make better use of that.

Stuart Burgess: Could we just pause for a moment? Forgive us.

Neil Parish: Who should fund it? Should it be Government? Should it be private business?

Professor Shucksmith: These are our recommendations 6.4, 6.5 and so on. These were very much ideas developed by one of our colleagues, Howard Petch, who you may know. He was extremely worried to find that, in his view and I think we all share this view, there was no comparable research and development going on into advancing hill farming, compared with what there had been in lowland farming. One aspect of that would be the fact that there is now no longer an experimental husbandry farm. There used to the Redesdale Experimental Husbandry Farm. He was worried also that there seems to be no degreelevel courses in hill farming in any of the colleges. He felt, and this was confirmed by people who we spoke to, that there was a lack of research and development specifically into hill farming practices and the training of future generations of hill farmers.

Stuart Burgess: I’ve been around most of the agricultural colleges in this country, and I know that Howard Petch and others have felt very strongly that one landbased college should take the lead in all this and be particularly concerned with the future of hill farming. I know there has been a lot of concern over the potential loss of Newton Rigg for example, up in Cumbria, because some people had identified that as a way in which a landbased college, set in Cumbria as well, could be used for apprenticeships and training in hill farming. There’s a sense that potential and opportunity could now be lost. We must look for other opportunities, because I think it is about education. It is about the realisation that many young farmers, and I’m very committed to young farmers-I think there are some fantastic people out there-have grasped the idea of a new business acumen, and are really going for it. I come across so many young farmers who want to spend their time up on the hills, which for many people may sound very strange and very odd, but some people are very committed to this. How are we going to facilitate that? How are we going to help that? How are we going to make sure that there is some kind of succession going on in the future? The idea of promoting a landbased agricultural college, which would specialise and put great emphasis upon the training, the resourcing and especially providing apprenticeships, we thought, would be a marvellous opportunity.

Q44 Neil Parish: One of the problems, and it goes around and around in circles, is the income of hill farmers is low. You have statistics of 10,000. Farmers and young farmers don’t go into it just for the money. On the other hand, they have to have a living for their families. That’s one of the problems, and it’s probably because colleges aren’t providing the courses because the students aren’t necessarily there. Somehow or other, we have to stimulate that whole thing. Do you have any ideas on that one?

Stuart Burgess: I know this is difficult but it can be achieved in areas where some people get the hill farmers to diversify, and many of them have diversified. In the more remote areas of the hill farming community, it’s more difficult to do that. In the not so remote areas in the uplands, diversification has helped enormously, and some of the young farmers are the pioneers in all this also. They diversify only, for example, if they have good broadband access and mobile phone coverage. This facilitates and this helps build up their businesses and so on. Many people in hill farming, yes, are hill farming, but they want to do other things also and they realise that. It is a bit of a chickenandegg question. On the other hand, what we’ve tried to say in our report is there is huge potential out there, and it’s longterm potential as well as shortterm potential or mediumterm potential. I say broadband and CAP reform are maybe short term and medium term. Longer term, we’re into carbon storage and water sequestration, which may help fund and maintain those young hill farmers, who we desperately want in the future in England.

Q45 Neil Parish: One final point on it: who will pay for the college? How are you going to fund the college?

Stuart Burgess: There’s a sense in which many of these agricultural colleges, as people around the room will be aware, have already diversified. For example, you can go to Bishop Burton College near Beverley, which is diversification personified. What they’re saying there is, where they’re making the money, for example in equine, that will subsidise areas to which they find it more difficult to attract students, for example, or provide bursaries. This is part of the total package, rather than saying we can’t possibly do it. There are opportunities and there are ways of doing it. Bishop Burton College is one among many, like Harper Adams, for example, that are really pushing out the boat in very innovative ways. It can be done.

Professor Shucksmith: Could I just add that, where there are subjects that are regarded as vitally important to the national interest, and the value assets of the hills and uplands may be in that category, then, it would seem to me, that is the prime case for Government support, and I think that’s accepted by this Government, as it was by the past Government. There’s a question about what are the things that are deemed worthy of support, but I think that’s important to say.

Q46 Chair : How easy do you think it is for new entrants to come into hill farming and upland farming? In my experience, nearly all the people at the local Askham Bryan College are those who are sons and daughters of farmers, but there are strands and the media do follow some of the good news stories. How easy is it for new entrants to enter into hill farming or upland farming generally?

Stuart Burgess: I don’t think it’s particularly easy. We ought to be up front about this. Having said that, and we talked a good deal about this, we need to make hill farming attractive. We have to make farming attractive per se, across the board, for the future, but particularly hill farming, for which we realise there are particular disadvantages. Some people would name it as such, in terms of living in sparse rural communities, for example, without many of the services. On the other hand, what are the great potentials out there? There are many, in terms of the sheer quality of life issues that people have spoken to me about and the innovation that young people are bringing to the farming community more generally. They want to be inspired, and we need to help them to be so inspired.

Q47 Chair : Could I also press you? A couple of times you’ve mentioned, and it’s a theme throughout your report, both carbon and water storage in upland areas. Now, I found that immensely attractive, but the only scheme that I’m aware of is the one in my own constituency of a flood protection project at Pickering. They’re going to work with the railway line. They’re going to create bogs, if you’ll pardon the expression, peat bogs. They’re going to plant trees and they’re going to put bungs along lakes and dams along the railway line. Do you think there is more scope for that, particularly when we come on to discuss the CAP reform at the moment? I’m a little bit concerned. If the Forestry Commission is going to go, and obviously we wait to see the details, they’re heavily involved in this scheme, because the Forestry Commission will be planting the trees. Trees, as we know, retain water. Do you have any other examples like that, because it is a very powerful theme throughout your report? I wondered if you had any examples that you could use.

Stuart Burgess: I go back, if I may, to the answer in which I referred to the University of Nottingham and the work they’re doing there. Again, I’m no expert in this, I’m no scientist, but I was really taken by the work that they’re doing in the university. My understanding is that the upland and peatland areas have to be mapped to find out their potential in terms of carbon storage. Now, that process is just beginning, but they have to do that piece of work first, before they can then say that this is a particular area that is going to be valuable to us. All their research is showing at the moment that there is huge potential out there, around carbon storage, in upland areas.

Q48 Chair : Water storage also? The University of Durham I know does this.

Stuart Burgess: Water sequestration, absolutely. I think the two go together, but I think we’re at the early stages of this, in its development, but I personally am very excited about it.

Professor Shucksmith: The point you asked first was for a specific example. On page 90 of our report, we have a small case study of the sustainable catchment management programme in Bowland and the Peak District, which has some of those objectives to it.

Q49 Amber Rudd: On CAP reform, what outcomes would you like to see to benefit the uplands?

Professor Shucksmith: There are several things to say here. The first and most important would be higher remuneration for hill farming, such that hill farmers are able to continue looking after the valued assets. The likelihood is that would be either through the agrienvironmental schemes in Pillar 2 or through some change to the Single Farm Payments in Pillar 1. In a sense, it doesn’t matter to us which of those it is. That’s very clear, and I think we said in our report that other European countries have been able to use the existing CAP mechanisms to reward hill farmers rather more generously and more effectively to keep them in business. There is work that has been done on that, which we were citing, by the IEEP, the Institute for European Environmental Policy, by David Baldock and his colleagues. We could say more about that, if you like.

Apart from that measure, there are other aspects that are equally important. In our report, we’ve tried, as I said at the outset, to emphasise the importance of upland communities as the society and the economy within which land managers exist. There’s a question about how will upland communities be supported through the CAP. There are measures at the moment within Pillar 2. I’m thinking particularly of Axes 3 and 4. Those are measures that we would look to see expanded in the future, with a broader menu of possible measures. You could envisage much more support for upland communities coming through that. Whether that will happen, I don’t know, because clearly those are aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy that tend to be squeezed, because they don’t have interest groups lobbying quite so strongly for them. Indeed, I think those are the very areas that are likely to be squeezed in our spending review, in the announcements that were made last week, with the Rural Development Programme for England, I think I’m right in saying, being cut by 33%, but the Uplands Entry Level scheme having enhanced funding. Presumably Axes 1, 3 and 4 are going to be squeezed in this country in the next few years.

Q50 Neil Parish: The Single Farm Payment: I’m afraid I’m a bit of an expert on these matters, as I spent 10 years in the European Parliament and chaired the Agriculture Committee for two and a half years. The Single Farm Payment is very much an English hybrid. There is nothing stopping us really because, as far as I can see, the new CAP reform ain’t going to amount to a hill of beans in the end, if you look at it, to use an American expression. It’s not going far enough. We can take this existing Single Farm Payment if we wanted to. We could combine the nonseriously disadvantaged areas and the seriously disadvantaged areas in one, and give them an average payment. Then you would shift money back towards the hills.

Margaret Beckett didn’t mean to do it in many respects, but one of the things that did happen when she averaged these payments was that potatogrowers in East Anglia, who previously under the old system never got any payment at all, suddenly got a payment, and she took away moneys that were on livestock, like the sheep premium and the suckler cow premium. Lots of those came off the hills, and they lost out significantly. There is a way of pushing that back again. My own NFU would probably shoot me for these comments, but there is a fairness in this. If you are having a Single Farm Payment that’s looking after and managing the countryside, nowhere in many respects is more deserving than the uplands. Would you be as radical as that or what?

Stuart Burgess: I personally would be as radical as long as the policy is fair. That was the word you used. I agree with you, if there is flexibility in the Single Farm Payment, then why not?

Professor Shucksmith: I agree. I think we, as a group, felt that we would want to be radical in those sorts of ways. There are several different ways you could achieve it, and that would be one of them. Any of those we would support.

Q51 Chair : Can I just press you? Having been brought up in the uplands of the Pennines, it’s animal production that they are dependent on. Thirsk Auction Mart is the largest stock mart in the country. Should we not be encouraging them to produce lambs and to have the cows born there, before they’re brought down? I take slight issue with my colleague that I think we have to keep quite a strong emphasis on food production and animal production in the hills, rather than just environmental schemes. It’s trying to reach a balance, I think, between the two. Personally, I don’t think we want to lose all of Pillar 1. I’d be very concerned if Pillar 1 was watered down completely. That’s a personal view, not a party political view. I don’t know if you would share that.

Stuart Burgess: I will agree with you that holding the balance is very important. I would also agree, mainly because of the work I’ve done in Africa, that food production in the future is going to be of the essence, whether we like it or not. We’re going to be forced into the situation that, in the next 20 to 30 years, the population is going to grow by a third, over 3 billion people. That is going to be the main driver, because people want to eat and must eat to survive. Whether we like it or not, I think that the food issues-and we may talk about "food challenge" rather than "food security"-the food challenge is going to be essential and important for us to get a grip on. In a sense, what we need to do is have a balance and hold that balance with environmental issues. On the other hand, I think people in the poorer countries will drive this and say, "We have to eat, and eating comes right at the top of our list." We know ourselves it’s right at the top of everybody’s list. Ideally, we hold a balance, and that balance is between the food challenge and the environment. In the end, we have to produce food.

Q52 Chair : It would be music to my farmers’ ears. Do you think this would be a good opportunity to simplify the whole administration of the Common Agricultural Policy and remove some of the goldplating? In the reforming of the CAP, would it benefit the uplands if we removed some of the goldplating?

Professor Shucksmith: It would depend which. Everybody is in favour of simplifying the Common Agricultural Policy, particularly in removing some of the administrative burden on farmers, which is substantial. The devil is in the detail, so it’s a question of which particular changes you had in mind really.

Q53 Amber Rudd: I wanted to ask about the abolition of the RDAs, and whether they had played an important role in upland communities. Do you see it as relevant that they’re now going? What role might the Local Enterprise Partnerships have, which are replacing them?

Professor Shucksmith: I think that’s a very important question. The RDAs were very variable in how much they were involved in the uplands. In my own region, the North East, One NorthEast was very helpful. I know that you’ve heard evidence from Barnard Castle Vision, for example, where One NorthEast had been instrumental in helping them with super-fast broadband and trying to build an integrated project there. They’ve been good; some other RDAs, perhaps not so.

Going forward, we have a real worry. We wonder will the LEPs cover the uplands. Will they have any interest in the uplands? In the North East again, it appears, the mood music seems to be, that they will be based on the city regions. They’ll be very much based on Teesside and Tyneside. There’s a question about whether they’ll be interested in the uplands and the remoter rural areas at all and, yet, it’s absolutely crucial that they should be, and that the Regional Growth Fund is reaching the uplands. In some areas, it may not make much difference that the RDAs went, but in a sense it’s going forward to the LEPs and local authorities in future, to the extent that they’re responsible for economic development. In many places we went to, people in the uplands said, "The local authority isn’t really interested in us." In other areas, they were, so there’s a very uneven contribution made by RDAs and local authorities. We would look for some national championing, and some rural and upland proofing of those.

Stuart Burgess: From the coalition Government, there’s going to be a lot of emphasis on local authorities now, and that is clear. Local authorities are having to rethink their own strategies as it were. Especially in the upland communities, they’d never really faced up to some of the issues that I think they’re having to face up to. That may be a good thing, but they may need a good deal of support and help to take that on board. That’s part of our concern. If the focus is going to be local authorities, which obviously it’s going to be in many areas, a good deal of support and encouragement needs to be given.

Q54 Chair : In the intervening period, before the LEPs are introduced, who will be the delivery arm, do you believe, for the Rural Development Programmes in this transitional phase?

Professor Shucksmith: That might be a question for DEFRA.

Stuart Burgess: I’m not quite sure we can answer that one.

Q55 Chair : You refer to the Barnard Castle Vision, and it’s interesting that you mentioned broadband was partially supported because of course they’re very close to the exchange. Is it not more helpful to provide the money to those villages and dales that are farther away from the exchange that have such a slow broadband delivery?

Professor Shucksmith: My understanding, although I don’t know the details-in fact, there’s as much in the evidence that they sent you as I know, so you have that-but my understanding is that Vision extends up the dale. It’s not just for Barnard Castle. That is very important. To add a word or two, in the spring before last, on the first sunny weekend day of the year, I drove up Teesdale and was struck by what a fantastic place it is. I was struck by how empty it was and what potential it had, if only there was super-fast broadband and the other elements of infrastructure there, which could attract people to come and live and work, set up businesses working from home in this fantastic environment, and how easy it would be to enable that and what the pay-off would be. I just think that that could be a pilot and a lesson to us all, if Barnard Castle Vision’s work there were to succeed up the dale.

Q56 Chair : I’m delighted that North Yorkshire is a pilot project.

Stuart Burgess: I think young people need broadband and mobile phone coverage as well. I stress young people here because, certainly from an educational point of view, we went to a number of places where obviously during the school session they have broadband in school, for example, but when that system closes down and some of the young people go back to their upland community areas, they have no broadband access there to enable them to do their homework, for example. There’s an educational dimension to this as well.

Professor Shucksmith: There was a wonderful quote we had from a girl at school, who could do her homework if she took her computer up to the top of the hill-

Chair : - in the rain. You are right that they are allocating it to Digital Dale, but we’ll obviously monitor how the pilot project goes. Thank you.

Q57 Thomas Docherty: National Parks, I’m very interested in that. I’m of Cumbrian upbringing. If you asked most people who live in Copeland and Allerdale what they think of the National Park Authorities, the Friends of the Lake District and the National Trust, they will tell you that, historically, those organisations have prioritised what’s called the penciltin approach to the Lake District. They use that phrase because, in Kendal for example, there are long-standing fights between Rexel and the Friends of the Lake District. I’m not sure that you’ve seen the written submissions that some of those organisations have made, but they question the need for the change to the statutory powers of the National Park Authorities. My understanding is you’re recommending that great emphasis be placed on social and economic, and that there should be-correct me if I’m wrong here-a rebalancing, so that it’s not just about those who visit or retire to the National Park, but those who wish to raise their families and work in the National Park. Have I understood you correctly on that point?

Stuart Burgess: Absolutely, yes.

Q58 Thomas Docherty: The second point is to what extent do you think at the moment the National Park is achieving that balance, between those who need to make a living and raise their family, and those who see it more as a tourist destination or retirement area.

Stuart Burgess: There’s a difference, in my own experience of travelling around the different National Parks, of emphases. Some National Parks put a strong emphasis on tourism and also conservation, whereas other National Parks are trying to be a little more, from my perspective, innovative, trying to say, "Okay, there is something very beautiful and valuable about National Parks, but if we’re not careful we’re going to see them as museum pieces in the future." I firmly believe that, historically, all rural communities have evolved through generations and centuries. Just to preserve the National Parks per se is quite wrong. Again, it’s holding the balance. This is a phrase I’ve used already: holding the balance between those two opposite feelings. In holding the balance, there has to be innovation; there has to be more flexibility in terms of planning, for example, and more realisation that these are places where people live, but they can also work and enjoy the sheer beauty of the countryside. It is holding that balance between those tensions, which is not easy, I must admit.

Professor Shucksmith: Can I just add to that? I’m familiar with the way that Friends of the Lake District tend to be referred to locally as the Fiends of the Lake District. My view is that, when the National Parks legislation was established, we didn’t think about sustainable development in the way that we do today. People thought that it was possible to protect and keep in aspic the very visual aspects of the landscape, which have always been prioritised. We have a much better understanding now, and that understanding of sustainable development is about the interlocking, economic, social and environmental systems. We have an understanding of sustainable development comprising these three different elements.

Talking during the course of the inquiry to the Chief Executive of the Lake District National Park, he has a very exciting vision, and the Park Authority has a very exciting vision, of wanting the Lake District to be a model for sustainable development. In his view, when he spoke to us, the lack of an economic and a social objective with the same priority as the existing statutory objective is an obstacle to pursing the sustainable development of the Lake District National Park. I don’t know whether other National Parks have the same view of that but, it seemed to us, that it’s important that we would be able to have modern thinking about National Parks, in the same way as we do the rest of the country, and to prioritise economic and social objectives with equal weight to the environmental aspects.

You ask how much they’re doing that already. We mentioned in our report that the Sustainable Development Fund, which since 2003 has been available, has been applied in some of the National Parks. That’s an encouraging sign but, nevertheless, if you look at an issue like affordable housing, I don’t think there has been any affordable housing built in the Northumberland National Park within the last 20 to 30 years-not one house, as I understand it. In the Lake District, it takes for ever. I think it took 14 years to get agreement in Threlkeld to provide any affordable housing. There is fantastic work being done by organisations like the Cumbria Rural Housing Trust in places like Coniston and so on, but it is really difficult. The CRC did a study three or four years ago about housing in the National Parks, which showed how difficult a process it is, given the way that the statutory objectives are set at the moment. I think in some places there’s a willingness to try to rebalance these, and a feeling that this legislation that we’ve called for would be assistance. In other National Parks, a different view may be taken.

Q59 Thomas Docherty: On page 77 you have a recommendation about the Park Authorities being enablers, but you want them to have equal status between the two functions. How specifically do you deliver that equal status?

Professor Shucksmith: Specifically, you would require an amendment to the legislation, which changes it. At the moment, you have two statutory purposes for National Parks, which are the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage essentially-it’s a bit longer than that verbatim-and the second is promoting access and enjoyment of the countryside. In pursuing those, you have at the moment to have regard to the economic and social interests of the area. If that was no longer "having a regard to", but was given the status of a third equal objective, that’s what we’d recommend.

Stuart Burgess: Having travelled around all the National Parks now, I think I came to the conclusion that we either stay as we are or we’re challenged by some of the things we are proposing, and indeed others who are forward thinking in this, and try to say ourselves, "These places ought to be vibrant places and communities. Let us see what we can do to make them so." That’s important to me.

Q60 Neil Parish: Do they have too much power, the National Park Authority?

Q61 Chair : Do you agree with the fact that it’s the only planning authority that includes, on the authority, those who live or who have businesses outside the area, who may be competing with businesses inside the area? Do you think that’s fair?

Professor Shucksmith: I don’t know if that’s the case. I don’t know if other planning authorities can’t have people -

Chair : I believe it’s the case. I think for other planning authorities you have to live there to be elected as a member.

Professor Shucksmith: Are you thinking of the ministerial appointees?

Thomas Docherty: You can be a councillor if you have significant work in a local authority.

Chair : It is probably appointed. It is frequently raised to me, as a newcomer to a large part of the National Park, that it can inherently be uncompetitive.

Thomas Docherty: It’s also because they don’t have a stake in making it work.

Chair : They don’t have to live there and live with the consequences of their decisions.

Q62 Neil Parish: Will you answer my question?

Stuart Burgess: Do they have too much power?

Neil Parish: Yes.

Stuart Burgess: They are interpreting those two statutory requirements. In many ways, they are interpreting those, in my estimation, quite narrowly. What we’re trying to do is to add a third, which would encourage them and make them think much wider than those two at the moment. Having a third one would, I think, provide the impetus to what we’re saying about providing some vibrancy in the National Parks.

Q63 Neil Parish: Would that change them, if you don’t change their ethos?

Chair : Would you agree to my question that the composition should be changed?

Stuart Burgess: That the composition should change? Yes, I would go for a change of composition.

Professor Shucksmith: There is the review going on at the moment of the governance of National Parks. I believe that DEFRA is going to report on that in January, or make their proposals in January.

Chair : We’ll have an opportunity to ask them.

Professor Shucksmith: I was just going to say that the rationale for having ministerial appointees is that there is a national interest in the National Parks, as well as a local interest. That argument, it seems to me, is widely accepted. There’s the question of what proportion that should be and whether the local representatives should be directly elected to the National Park, or whether they should be appointed in the way they are at the moment.

Q64 Dan Rogerson: Part of your recommendation 4.1 is about rewarding farmers for managing national assets in harmony with developing business and market enterprise. Do you want to say a little bit more about what a national asset is?

Professor Shucksmith: The national assets we tried to set out, right at the beginning of the report, in terms of things that the public value particularly about National Parks and upland areas more generally. That would include the landscape, wildlife, biodiversity, water resources, carbon storage, all those environmental public goods, which are the most readily known. It seems to us it also includes many aspects other than environmental assets, such as cultural heritage. Rural areas and the upland areas in particular are often thought to embody aspects of national identity and even spiritual aspects, if you go back to Wordsworth and The Prelude. There are many aspects of the uplands that are seen as valuable public assets, environmental, social and cultural. We also believe there are economic aspects, and that there is a potential for things, not just food but including food, to be produced and sold to markets. They’re not necessarily things that require public subsidy, public support. Some things there can be supported by the market as well.

Q65 Dan Rogerson: Do you think there are potential conflicts between, as you mention, the cultural assets that people feel a great affinity for, and the landscape value and those sorts of assets, and, for example, energy generation? That’s something that’s controversial in my constituency and many others as well. How do you think you could balance those things, and how could landowners, farmers and those who manage it be rewarded?

Stuart Burgess: Probably with great difficulty, having been at a particular meeting in the South West where, on this particular occasion, this was a big issue. I totally agree with you. I came to the conclusion that many people are against new energy resourcing ideas, like they are against affordable housing: it’s much better to do it in other places, but not here. There is this balancing act and I think that what we have to say is there is no particular inherent conflict, or there shouldn’t be, but in many ways it is generated by local people who may want to home in on particular issues. My plea would be that these are the general ideas that we embrace and are important-these marvellous assets that we have out there in upland areas-but there are also the particular challenges that you’ve identified; somehow, we have to try to find a way through. It’s not going to be easy; it’s going to be pretty difficult, but I hope that it can be managed.

Q66 Dan Rogerson: If you were going to reward people or recognise the contribution they make in caring for this, how do you quantify what contribution they’ve made? In some of the other areas, it’s easier to recognise-biodiversity, for example. How do you quantify these things?

Professor Shucksmith: We spent a whole day taking evidence from economists about exactly this question, and we came to the conclusion at the end of the day-in fact one of the professors of economics came to the conclusion-that the science of economics and environmental economics is not yet up to the task. We reached a dead end there in terms of how you quantify the benefits and reward people if you have to measure it on the basis of the marginal value of the benefits; without going into the technicalities of the different economic approaches, that seemed to be a dead end. One has to think instead about how you try to ensure those public assets are managed. It takes us back to the issue raised earlier on of trying to ensure the continuity of the farm business. That seems to us to be the litmus test, in a sense.

Q67 Dan Rogerson: Is that something that’s been attempted anywhere else, in any other countries? Have they looked at ways in which they can quantify it? In your discussions on that day, did you have evidence from people elsewhere?

Professor Shucksmith: Not on that day, but there is evidence provided by the Institute for European Environmental Policy. In 2005, they did a review of the LFA schemes applied in each of the European Union member states, and they have a chapter on the levels of compensation, and lots and lots of tables explaining the many and varied ways in which different countries do it. Two messages come out strongly here. One is that, in some countries, they’re much more generous than we are, paying five or six times the level of support per hectare that we do. The other main message is the huge flexibility we could take advantage of, when you look at the flexibility in the way these rules are applied across Europe. I would point the Committee towards that source.

Chair : May I thank you very much indeed, and everybody involved in the meeting, for staying and being such good witnesses? We look forward to hearing from you again, and we’d like to thank you for all the work you’ve done in the report. We hope to have the opportunity to have two bites of the cherry-a little report and then a longer report next year-to build up on the work that you’ve done. Thank you very much indeed.