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Country News - 2002

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Get involved in village life - Countryside Agency
Wednesday 25 September 2002

IN THE aftermath of the great London march, the Government's Countryside Agency IS asking country people to become more involved in the way their communities are run - so that they can discover some of the benefits available.

"The challenge for country people returning after the countryside march will be to turn their energy and commitment into positive action to build on the strength of their communities and help themselves," says agency chairman Ewen Cameron.

The march put the agency into difficult situation because it has sometimes seemed to be more on the side of the countryside than that of its political masters - but Mr Cameron's appeal also hints that some of his staff get exasperated from time to time with the lethargic response to some of the agency's schemes.

For instance, some £14 million has been given towards community improvements projects launched 15 months ago under the Vital Villages project - but there are still grants available of up to £10,000 per project if the parish involved can first raise a "seed-corn" £2,500.

The reason for the slow take up, the appeal hints, is that too few people bother to explore what is available - "if they know what they need, grants are available."

Schemes that have been funded include support for local shops and bus services, childcare groups, taxi buses - and even moped pools.

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