THE Government's Countryside Agency yesterday launched what is probably its most important project yet: to lay down patterns of future development which will determine what our countryside will look like, and how country folk will live, in 2020.
This is the most long-term initiative ever launched by a government body and its aims are staggering in their simplicity: to forecast potential problems ahead - and find a solution for them before they actually do any damage.
Launching the State of the Countryside 2020 - a Green and Pleasant Land?, agency chief executive Richard Wakeford commented:
"Unless we look forward, there's a risk of little steps that don't add up to the journey that is necessary. The way people act now will shape the physical environment and communities of tomorrow's countryside.
"We cannot treat our countryside as an island. We value it as a place to live, to work and to visit, yet wider drivers are leading to fundamental change."
Potentially, the start of this huge consultation process is the start of one of the most important processes in the countryside since the enclosures of the fields in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Our country columnist John Sheard will discuss it in more detail in A Week in the Country tomorrow.