The CLA have launched a key policy document on the Uplands.
High Hopes – CLA report on the Uplands is a follow-up to the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) report of July 2010, expanding on its themes and recommendations and extending them to the Uplands in Wales as well as in England.
CLA President William Worsley said: “The Uplands are immensely important to society in England and Wales because their active management - by farmers, foresters and the shooting industry - provides the vital goods and services of food, wood products, energy, cultural landscape, natural resource protection and biodiversity, as well as a wonderful array of leisure and tourism opportunities.
"However, many of the businesses involved in the Uplands are under threat because of low or negative financial margins in one of their core activities – grazing livestock production. These businesses survive only because of public payments, and the payments are now in jeopardy.
“The ability of upland land management to provide a reasonable living standard is critical to the future of the Uplands. This goal will not be reached by dependence on selling agricultural products alone; rural economic diversification and provision of a range of environmental services such as water and climate protection and providing biodiversity and cultural landscape will become increasingly important.”
The report makes more than 35 recommendations for sustaining the Uplands including changes in institutions, the contribution of the CAP, attracting new sources of finance, improving the productivity and profitability of hill farming, providing renewable energy, more afforestation, improving rural services and telecommunications, and, critically, introducing changes in planning, affordable housing provision, and cultural heritage.
The CLA President added: “To unlock the potential of our uplands and to ensure delivery of this suite of measures requires real buy-in from Government and some leadership from upland society itself.
"There are a lot of good ideas around to do this, and the report of the Efra committee review and Defra’s internal uplands project provide the opportunity to make rapid progress on this agenda.”
Douglas Chalmers, Director CLA North said: “'The Uplands' is a phrase often bandied about, and I believe everybody may have a slightly different impression of what they are.
“They may appear empty of people, but they contain active land managers who have created and look after the countryside, and who support and are supported by local settlements, communities and business.
“This Report highlights what the Uplands supply us with. Here in the North West especially, even the most urban of us are dependent on our hills for something.
“If we cannot ensure an economically secure future for all businesses in the Uplands, of course the futures of communities and the environment there are not sustainable.'But an equal threat is what everyone else loses. If we lose what we have, we may never be able to replace it.”