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LAMMA 2021

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From the editor: Rural areas need investment to cope with rising visitor numbers

As I write, the tourists are back in the village and the streets and footpaths are once again teeming with day trippers making the most of the spring sunshine.

And while it would be curmudgeonly to resent their presence, is it too much to ask that visitors show respect for the places they are travelling to?

 

It is that word – respect – which defines the problem many people in rural areas face when there is an influx of visitors. This is because while their presence provides a welcome boost to rural businesses, it too often goes hand in hand with rising incidents of littering, trespassing or generally obstructive behaviour.

 

Whether it is walkers ignoring footpaths, cars parked across gateways, incidents of livestock worrying, or litter intentionally being discarded, it can feel like a never ending battle for respect.

 

The past 12 months have certainly seen an increase in people using rural areas for escapism and this, actually, has allowed many to reconnect with the countryside and the people who produce their food. It has also, as many readers will testify, increased the anti-social incidents previously mentioned.


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That is why an updated Countryside Code is so timely. If it strikes the right tone and is crucially shared on the right platforms for the wider public to engage with, it will hopefully make some think twice about the fact the beautiful places they visit are working landscapes and people’s homes; places that should be respected.

 

There is also the lingering question of how rural areas cope with an influx of people without the right infrastructure in place to be able to handle it. This might range from simple things, such as having enough bins to cope with rising amounts of litter at busy times, to having good transport links or enough parking spaces to accommodate the spring and summer surge in tourists.

 

This latter point is often overlooked and while the British countryside is rightly prized, its rural communities desperately need the right funding and infrastructure to capitalise on this growing popularity. The NFU’s ‘levelling up’ agenda is certainly using the right language and, hopefully, will strike a chord with those in power.

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