Susanne Austin is available for interview. Tel: 01865 742793
NB: Miss Austin will be on an official UK Trade Mission to Barcelona from 6-11 March.

Edward Dawson (CPRE South East Regional Director) 01252 877458


1. The Government's Rural White Paper (Cm 4909), Our Countryside: a fair deal for rural England was published in November 2000. It proposed the setting up of Regional Rural Sounding Boards to bring together rural stakeholders to inform and monitor the regional and local delivery of policy in rural areas ('Rural Proofing'). These would work in each of the eight regions in the country. They would report to the national Board and in due course, to a Cabinet Committee on Rural Affairs.

2. The Government has now proposed that these sounding boards be known as Rural Affairs Forums. The Government Office for the South East (GOSE), with other agencies, like the Countryside Agency, has formally established the South East Rural Affairs Forum. It will be chaired by Lord Selborne, Chancellor of Southampton University, a former President of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the original Rural White Paper sounding board. There will be 30 members of the Forum drawn from a wide range of rural interests.

3. Susanne Austin founded the Cotswold Food Group in 1999. She runs her own consultancy specialising in the promotion of niche markets for local food and drink producers. She undertakes numerous speaking engagements around the region, and is a regular contributor to 'Cotswold Life'. She spent most of her youth on her grandparent's farm and is interested in links between farming and the English landscape. She has launched the Cotswold Food and Drink Awards and was a recent a guest on the popular BBC2 cookery series 'Ready, Steady, Cook'. She also advises CPRE on rural policy matters. Miss Austin will represent SEFS (South East Forum for Sustainability), a network of rural and environmental interests on the Forum.

4. The England Rural Development Plan (the so-called 'second pillar' of the CAP) will come under the Rural Forum. ERDP is a 1.6bn (2001-2006) programme funded by the European Commission. It funds rural diversification projects; market-based initiatives and community as well as environmental schemes, ERDP has a standing Consultation Group, which will now become a sub-committee of the Rural Forum.

5. Some of the early issues to be tackled by the Forum will include rural transport; achieving more sustainable transport for rural areas by enabling accessibility whilst achieving sustainable development objectives. Waste issues; recycling facilities; litter and fly tipping, employment and the local economy, including tourism and skills training; local markets for farm produce and other goods; community: access to health care and education; local facilities; post office, shops, banks; social amenities; village halls, pubs, sports and recreation.

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Copyright Susanne Austin 2005/6