chapter  1
33 Pages

IMAGES OF AN INTEGRATED COUNTRYSIDE

The first two chapters in this book aim to establish a framework for adopting a resource management approach to planning the countryside, It is clearly necessary at the outset to define our terms of reference, and so this Chapter focusses specifically on different approaches to defining the term 1rural', and to isolating the main components of 'the rural system'. Whilst many of the examples quoted refer to the United Kingdom, the framework is intended to be international in orientation, so that examples - particularly from the United States and Europe - are included in subsequent chapters. 1.1 RURAL IMAGES

...no comprehensive view of rural land use has been arrived at. In many ways, planning still waits for planners and the public to decide what kind of rural environ­ ment they want. ^

The future of the countryside in many developed 'areas* such as the United States and Western Europe has seemingly been in the balance for a number of years. Early concern over the rural ramifications of what Andrew Gilg has called 'the confident years of expansion in the 1950's and 1960's^ has led to the establishment in many developed countries of forms of countryside planning machinery geared mainly towards a rather negative counteraction of growth coupled with policies of selective development. However, there has been a long - if sometimes inevitable - time-lag, between the recognition and understanding of countryside problems, and the develop­ ment of suitable planning processes with which to implement suitable policy responses. Consequently,

the 1980*s have arrived without any concomitant evolution of countryside management away from restriction of growth and towards a positive policy of support for the rural environment in times of economic hardship. Perception of the Rural Environment Many problems of countryside planning stem from the ways in which people view the countryside - whether these people are planners, residents, visitors or whatever. Perception of the opportunities offered by rural areas inevitably varies between individuals and groups; but perhaps also perception is coloured by national variations in population size, pressure on land-use resources, standard of living, and the like. In Britain, therefore, with intense pressure on countryside resources, images of the countryside are commonly multi-dimensional and perhaps inevit­ ably contradictory at times. Perceptions of agriculture in the countryside in Britain can be used to illustrate this point. On the one hand, the farmer is often viewed (usually by urban-based protagonists) as 'the archetypal moaner, feather-bedded by the taxpayer's money, but forever pleading poverty while riding around in a new car'. The extreme environmentalist viewpoint, on the other hand, tends to brand him as 'the destroyer of the nation's heritage, promoting the rape of the natural landscape and poisoning its flora and fauna in the pursuit of Mammon'.^ Yet, to the farmer, agriculture is both a business and a way of life, both of which are to be protected from the m^ddling of uninformed and potentially dangerous urbanites (see Chapter 9.2), In the United States, by contrast, images of agri­ culture are not so polarized, in part because land zoning tends to separate conflicting forms of land use, but also because overall pressures on available land in the countryside are not so acute as in Britain. Nonetheless, Hagood's^ analysis of vari­ ations in the Farm Operator Level of Living Index demonstrated substantial variations in standards of living within and between rural farm communities (FIGURE 1.1), suggesting that there are marked vari­ ations in social structure, and thus in likely per­ ceptions, even within the agricultural sector. Rural images are also strongly flavoured by differences in attitude between urban and rural dwellers. There is a feeling, for example, that 'the countryside stands for ali that is important in Britain; it 2

Source: after B .E . Coates, R.J. Johnston and P.L. Knox,Geography and Inequality (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1977): 65,

is the expression of the good life away from the stresses and strains of the city and the symbol of everything which is considered truly B r i t i s h 16, and this sometimes leads to conflicts of perception and action. Urban~dwellers are often accused of converting these deep-seated emotions into an over-use of the countryside. This can take many forms, such as frequent visits to the countryside for leisure (see Chapter 7) or taking up residence in rural set­ tlements either as commuters or as second home owners whose rural attachment is only seasonal (see Chapter 8) . These images are perhaps caricatures, but it is true that urbanite ideals can become transposed as the voice of rural people - especially wheri vociferous newcomers dominate local rural politics in an attempt to ensure that the house which they have just built in a village is the last one to be built there, ostensibly to preserve the natural rural environment from the influx of 1outsiders1. Counter balancing

these attitudes are those of the more established rural residents. Concern over decreasing retail, educational, infrastructural and social services has frequently led to demands from rural residents for greater opportunities in the fields of housing, employment and transport (Chapter 10) and yet there are, paradoxically, often reluctant to support any controlled population increase which might allow such opportunities to be achieved. Planning, Perception and Reaction These differences in how the countryside is viewed by farmers/non-farmers, and between rural/town dwellers, illustrate some of the many contradictions of imagery and activity which plague rural areas. In fact, Gordon Cherry defines rural planning as 1 a question of recognizing emergent areas of conflict in values and of taking action to reconcile or otherwise meet that conflict*.^ it is this process of recognition within planning which perhaps uncovers the most important set of rural attitudes - those of the planners themselves. Planners' images of the rural environment often differ markedly from those of the politicians who they seek to influence, and from the images of those sections of the population who are affected by the allocation of resources within the rural planning system.8 Planners* images are of fundamental importance in two contexts. First, the adoption by planners of *rural* and *urban* categories clearly conditions their assumptions and approaches to different areas. The example of the Structure Plans prepared for the Teeside sub-region in England demonstrates that the area defined as urban Teeside provoked a potentially radical growth zone response from planners while the rural county draft pian conformed to a more traditional conservative philosophy.9 Secondly, even the most enlightened planner*s image of the countryside is inevitably restricted by the inflexibility and poor resource base of current plan­ ning machinery. In Britain, for example^, shire counties and districts do not, in general, support sufficient manpower to diversify beyond their strict planning duties, which are on the whole mechanical and lacking in scope for originality or lateralism, and it seems likely that these types of problem will be exacerbated by the onset of further public spending cuts. Thus, the likelihood of support for

experiments in positive planning at the local rural level is small and it is clear that the bureaucratic planning legislation which divides the rural environ­ ment into neat subsections - such as housing, conser­ vation, highways, and employment - will often discourage the small-scale experiment which cuts across these artificial administrative boundaries (see Chapter 12.2). Therefore, the planner's image of the countryside rather than providing a platform for the resolution of conflicting values, tends to encourage a neglect of the connections both within the rural environment, and with surrounding urban environments. Implications of the Rural Image There are two possible interpretations of these con­ flicting images of countryside. One sees them as conscious attempts by different sectors of the community to obstruct progress in planning rural areas. The other, and perhaps more likely interpretation, is that attitudes and images from different sources are failing to keep pace with rapid changes in the society and physical environment of the countryside. One of the principal tasks for rural planners and managers in ali developed countries is to reconcile and modernize conflicting attitude and action, since the more pressing problems of land use conflict may be viewed as a direct result of different groups* perceptions of the opportunities offered by the countryside. The thesis underlying this book is that one suitable framework within which to promote a broader and more thorough understanding of the countryside by ali parties is to adopt a resource-based approach. Such a framework has three main advantages: ( i) it allows a more comprehensive view of the

countryside, with possibilities for integrating the treatment of 'physical1 and 'social' resources within one analytical scheme;

( ii) it aids the isolation of potential and actual conflicts between various forms of resource use, and therefore highlights underlying disharmonies of image and attitude;

(iii) it opens up various possibilities for countryside management, beginning with the provision of a concise background against which decisions about what kind of rural environment is

wanted in the future can be made, and progressing towards a full evaluation of the suitability of various techniques of resource management in solving particular problems of resource conflict.