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November 11, 2003 1:15 PM

Brecon Hill countrysideCommenting ahead of tomorrow's expected announcement of a new land management agency to take over the functions of English Nature, the Countryside Agency and possibly the Forestry Commission, Andrew George MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary said:

"Whether the Countryside Agency is subsumed, abolished or not, something needs to be done to end the Government obsession of further adding to the alphabet soup of agencies and initiatives.

"Ministers could use this as an opportunity to exact revenge on English Nature for its unwelcome advice on GMs, housing and road-building. But the country needs an independent agency, not a lapdog to the Government.

"Devolving funds could be welcome but I fear that would be a smokescreen for cutting the budget currently going to the countryside. In an urban-dominated country, any Government needs a strong rural champion capable of influencing the activities of Government departments."