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					Chief Executive’s Report
May 2006
Introduction

Much of my own time is currently devoted to managing the change process, working
with senior colleagues in Defra, NE, EN and RDS. There is a great deal still to do and
some significant challenges as the new NE structure takes shape, but important
milestones have been reached since the last Board meeting. Membership of the Natural
England Board has been announced and I congratulate Pam Warhurst and Tony Hams
on their appointments. Sadly we’ve already lost Tony, as his term commenced on 2 May
but we are fortunate that Pam will still be with us until 1 July. NE have now made
substantial progress with their second matching process, with permanent staff in LAR,
Communications and MSG receiving letters confirming that they have been matched to
posts from 1 October. Within Corporate Services, staff working in HR, IT and Finance
have had letters explaining that NE will need until the end of June to determine (with
Defra’s Shared Services Organisation) which members of staff will be transferred across.
The change process for CRC is more within our own control and the matching process
took place on schedule.

Changes in key personnel will be inevitable as we approach October and we are seeking
to plan for and respond to these. CA needs to maintain coherence and viability through
this period, and to ensure effective decision-making and good communications, as well as
ongoing work programmes.

Accordingly I have united into a single Private Office the various existing management
support functions for the Chairman, CA Board and Executive, and for the CRC and LAR
task groups. In addition, I am strengthening the team managing the establishment of the
Commission for Rural Communities in the run up to vesting. The changes came into
effect on 1 May 2006 and the headline changes are as follows:

Carolyn Cadman is a new, temporary Programme Director for Corporate Support and
the CRC Project, reporting direct to me. Carolyn now manages two groups. The first, led
by Sue Bennett, is the Private Office uniting those staff who provide support for the
Chairman, CA Board and Executive in both London and Cheltenham. The second, led
by Gill Payne, is the CRC Project team. A diagram illustrating the senior structure has
previously been circulated.

During March and April extensive discussions and negotiations were conducted in
relation to the relocation of the CRC. Finally, in the wake of the reshuffle at Defra, the
Agency received confirmation from Barry Gardiner, Parliamentary Secretary (Commons)
Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity, giving his approval to the Board’s preferred
location, subject to the completion of detailed negotiations. Board members have seen
the correspondence. We have held positive staff meetings in Cheltenham and London
and plan now to develop a continuing, open dialogue with staff as proposals develop.
We need to consider how best to involve Board members in guiding this part of the CRC
Project and will raise this at the Task Group meeting.


                                            1
Also since the last Board meeting a Board sub-group has been established to consider the
CA’s Dissolution, led by Philip Lowe and involving Board members Peter Fane and
Howard Petch, supported by Tony Dover. The first meeting is scheduled for the evening
before the Board meeting.

The update on Corporate Services activities is included in the financial report for quarter
4, item 7 of the Board agenda.

Commission for Rural Communities

Studies

At their meeting on 3 May, the CRC Task Group considered a draft for the 'priorities for
action' document, which we will publish from this thematic study. Publication of the
study results is planned to take place on 12 June at an event in central London, where we
are hoping to have Ministers from both Defra and the Department for Local
Government & Communities (DCLG) present. A DVD from the study will also be
published with the report. The full report will be made available to a wide range of
stakeholders soon after.

Two mid-project seminars on the choice and service provision study have been held, one
on choice in education (chaired by Sheena Asthana) and one on choice in healthcare.
These have been a useful opportunity to take stock of emerging findings from the study
and to discuss them with some external parties who have an interest or expertise in the
field.

The first interim report of the land and rural communities study has been received from
the contractors for this study, CCRU at Gloucester University. They are in the process
of selecting, with us, the types of area to be examined through five case studies.

Budget report

Following a detailed analysis of the 2005 Pre-Budget and 2006 Budget, including a
workshop with stakeholders, the Chairman wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
highlighting what we see as the key issues affecting rural communities and businesses and
raising some concerns about the impact of some of the measures in the Budget. The
letter also raised the issue of how HMT will ensure rural proofing of the Comprehensive
Spending Review and offered our assistance in this.

Housing

Housing remains high on the agenda and continues to raise media interest. There was a
strong flurry of media interest in our proposals for reforming the Council Tax on second
homes over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. Although the front-page story in The
Times on Easter Monday was not entirely accurate, generally, it has helped to position
the CRC as an informed body with some strong messages on rural housing issues. In
addition, Trevor Cherrett, head of the Housing, Planning and Transport team, has had
articles on sustainable rural planning published in Planning and LGN magazines. This

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media interest should continue in the run-up to publication of the Affordable Rural
Housing Commission’s report, on 17 May.

We have published a discussion paper drawing on the results so far of the work we
commissioned from Roger Tym and Partners on calculating rural housing needs. We
have been working closely with the ARHC (including with Mark Shucksmith), Defra and
ODPM (now the DCLG) and have been involved in a series of meetings, including with
Ministers, about the report and the figures. We have not, at this stage, come out firmly
for a target, but have set out our estimate of the range of needs (ie 14,000 – 19,000 new
houses needed each year over the next 5 years, plus backlog), taking account of migration
which is not included in the RTP report. The discussion paper sets out suggestions for
further work in this area and seeks comments and support.

On 8 May, we held a meeting, chaired by Tony Hams, with all the English National Parks
to discuss the findings of a joint report we produced with the Housing Corporation on
housing and National Parks. The CEO of the Housing Corporation spoke at the meeting
which was generally positive and demonstrated NPs’ recognition of the need for their
close involvement in assisting the provision of more affordable housing in their areas.

On 9 May we began our return visits to the communities who had contributed to our
housing inquiry to let them know what we have done as a result of the inquiry. The visits
had been delayed pending the local council elections. By the time of the Board meeting,
we will have been back to the Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire (9th May), Kingsbridge
in Devon (10th), Great Limber in Lincolnshire (11th) and Keswick in Cumbria (22nd).
The visits have been very well received and have generated good local and regional press
attention. The communities seem to appreciate that we have come back and turn out has
been good. To mark the first visit we also published the national report from the inquiry,
plus a short film and eight short regional reports.

In addition, we have also been planning the arrangements for our major housing
conference, to take place on the afternoon of 17 May and which will be the first public
opportunity to discuss the ARHC’s report, to be launched that morning. At the time of
writing we are expecting an audience of some 120 people and 3 Ministers, including the
new Secretary of State, David Miliband, the Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper and the
Rural Affairs Minister, Barry Gardiner.

In the pipeline on housing, we have just finished a project scanning all the regional spatial
and housing strategies to identify and comment on rural content and a series of studies
have now been completed on: Support for Older People; use of existing buildings; and
young people’s foyers.

Young people

The second of our best practice events or 'show and tell' visits was completed
successfully in the North East on the issues facing disadvantaged young people in rural
areas. We worked closely with The Prince’s Trust on the event, during which officials
from Government Departments and others involved in the development of government
policy on youth matters were shown the opportunities available to them to 'rural proof'

                                              3
their work. Margaret Clark hosted a dinner on the first night for the participants and
guests, including the NE GOR Director. Mark Shucksmith gave a presentation on the
overarching issues after the dinner on the first night. We plan to learn the lessons from
these visits and the methodology of getting good practice to stick.

Our logo was included on the recent Home Office impact report on the 'Positive
Futures' programme (for sports based engagement for young people at risk of exclusion)
in recognition of our advisory input to the programme. Furthermore, the CRC has now
been asked to continue as a member of the advisory group for the Positive Futures’
programme as its management transfers to Crime Concern (although funding will
continue from the Home Office).

Local government

The CRC's Task Group has agreed the basis of a discussion paper setting out what we
would like to see, from a rural perspective, in the Government's forthcoming Local
Government White Paper, due this Summer. Our paper will be published shortly and
used to generate and influence these continuing debates.

Consultants have produced for us a groundbreaking rural analysis for English unitary and
county authorities of FSB Scotland Index of Success 2006. It analyses four measures of
economy, health and education performance, consistent with the UN Human
Development Index, and allows the success of rural areas to be compared with urban
areas, using the new classification. Major Urban authorities come out as the poorest
performers, whilst authorities classified as Significant Rural outperform all others. Rural
areas have higher Indices of Success than urban UAs/counties in all regions except the
South East and the East. This evidence will be used to argue for better recognition of
rural performance in emerging city region policies and other economic strategies.

Post offices

We are reviewing the report capturing the results from the focus group sessions we ran in
Cumbria and Dorset on future approaches and options for the rural post office network.
We will use this report in our continuing advisory and advocacy work on this subject.

Rural services

We have held two useful planning meetings with the new Rural Services Partnership, as
well as a meeting with the County Councils Network, to discuss how best to develop our
complementary roles in making the case for adequate resources for rural services (as well
as for efficiency and good practice).

Meetings and events
We are discussing with Ruralnet how the CRC might best engage with the annual
Ruralnet conference. Similarly, we are talking to a range of other organisations about our
possible involvement in various conferences over the coming year, for example the LGA,
NALC, the Chartered Institute of Housing, ACRE's 20th anniversary conference and the
Regeneration and Renewal conference on City Regions.

                                             4
On 4 April, we supported an event chaired by our Chairman and held in York by the
Northern Rural Network, to launch the publication of a report into Ageing in the
countryside, funded jointly by the CRC and Age Concern, overseen by Philip Lowe, with
a contribution from Mark Shucksmith.

On 25 April, Crispin Moor, Valerie Smith and Andrew Probert hosted a meeting for a
visiting delegation from the Public Morals and New Community Division of the
Chungcheongnam-do provincial government from Korea. The delegation was briefed on
a range of local government, market town and transport issues.

The Chairman, together with David Atkinson, attended a meeting of the Central Local
Partnership rural sub group at Defra on 10 May, where the discussion included the rural
side of the City Regions agenda and we briefed those present on our proposed work in
this area.

The Chairman, together with a number of CRC staff, attended a Parliamentary reception
held by the National Association of Local Councils on 9 May, at which we promoted our
'community empowerment awards' scheme for parish and town councils

Consultations

We have responded to the DWP Welfare Reform Green Paper. The proposals are
principally about supporting people back to work through reform of Incapacity Benefit.
Emerging findings from our disadvantage study highlight that a higher proportion of
those who are economically inactive, but want a job, in rural areas are prevented from
working due to a limiting long-term illness. In our response, we emphasized the
importance of ensuring measures, such as the rollout of Pathways to Work, included in
the proposals are designed carefully, so that they are able to meet the needs of the large
numbers of potential beneficiaries in rural areas.

Landscape, Access and Recreation

Finest Countryside

The Meyrick judgment has dominated the work of the Finest Countryside Team for
some months. In late March we passed the first of our major hurdles, with the
enactment of the NERC Bill. The NERC Act includes sections that help to restore the
designation criteria for national parks to the situation we had assumed was correct for
over half a century. At the same time, Defra heard that the Secretary of State had been
granted leave to appeal against the Meyrick judgement. We will be working with Defra
officials to present a robust case to the Appeal Court.

Meanwhile, with the agreement of the Board, we have been progressing our designation
work in northwest England, concentrating on possible revisions to the boundary of the
Lake District National Park. We are using this work to help define new designation
methodologies that reflect he NERC Act. The Board, however, will not be in a position
to make any decisions on the work until the results of the Appeal process are known.

                                             5
We have issued all core and project grants to AONB partnerships well, ahead of the start
of the financial year. Making offers at an early stage helps the delivery of AONB
business hugely and allows efficient budget management.

We have been working closely with Confederation partners to prepare a set of five
strategic principles to guide Natural England policy and activity for protected landscapes.
We are close to a final draft, which will need to be approved through a Natural England
decision process before the principles can be put into practice.

Planning

We have been concentrating on a large number of national consultations from
government departments and others. The consultations cover a wider range of planning
policy issues; some ask questions at the heart of the planning process itself.

We have submitted Confederation wide responses on:

   Draft PPS3, Housing (ODPM)
   Planning Gain Supplement (ODPM)
   Draft PPS25, Development and Flood Risk (ODPM)
   The Barker review of land use planning ('Barker II), setting out our view of the
   importance of the planning system in protecting and enhancing the environment and
   providing for appropriate high quality development (ODPM/HMT)
   A Code for Sustainable Homes (ODPM)
   A Strategy for Sustainable Construction (DTI)
   Sustainable Energy by Design (TCPA)
   Stonehenge A303 road proposals (DfT/HA).

We have also:

   Published and promoted 'Including landscape in road design, construction and
   mitigation - a good practice discussion note'
   Investigated, with CPRE, the post-opening evaluation and impacts of road schemes
   with a publication due in May
   Made a joint EN/CA submission to the Environmental Audit Committee's review of
   transport's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions
   Continued widespread consultation on our design tools, with a workshop planned for
   early April
   Started preparing guidance on using Village Design Statements in the planning
   system.

Land Management

The University of Exeter, working with the University of Coventry, have been
commissioned to conduct a wide-ranging evaluation of Eat the View. This will evaluate
the programme since its inception and major areas of work. As well as making



                                             6
recommendations about the future of the programme the evaluation will also develop
good practice guidance on a number of key themes.

Two marketing guides have been published, aimed at owners of small woodlands and
makers of wood products respectively. These aim to encourage sustainable management
of small woodlands, by enabling the effective marketing of woodland products and
creating and strengthen the market for such products. Copies are available from Carole
Ashford in the Land Management Office.

Members of the land management team and English Nature’s agriculture unit attended a
meeting with the Head of Corporate & Social Responsibility at Marks & Spencers. Items
discussed included the scope for influencing land management standards through the
market, the type of approach needed to achieve change through this mechanism and
examples of our past activities in this area. The ideas generated will be developed in a
proposed NE paper on sustainable farming and food.

Landscape

Consultants LDA design have been contracted to provide CA regional staff with tailored
training on Landscape Character Assessment and its applications. Training events will
take place between now and July.

The National Heritage HM Revenue and Customs annual review letter noted that the
National Heritage Unit achieved a 100% success rate in their inspection programme for
2005-6 and thanked the members of the unit for their work in this area.

The Countryside Quality Counts project team has been refining the method of judging
the significance of change in Joint Character Areas (JCAs) during the period of 1993 –
1998. The aim is to ensure that judgments made about change in each JCA are as clear
and robust as possible. The project is on track to publish its results in October 2006.

Coasts

The Marine Bill consultation was issued at the end of March and we have until the 23rd
June to reply to the 141 questions posed in it. We will be submitting a NE reply which is
being co-ordinated by Angela Moffat at EN. Jacky Martel will produce a briefing paper
for CA staff this week and is holding a workshop on the 12 May to gather the LAR issues
and what we want the Bill to achieve. These will be fed into a series of meetings to
develop the NE consultation response at the end of May.

Community Renewables Initiative

CA funding is allocated until 30 June. New co-ordination/funding arrangements will be
in place from July - positive discussions have taken place with Dti, Defra and the
Forestry Commission.




                                            7
Countryside In and Around Towns (CIAT)

We are continuing to develop options for how our work within and around urban areas
can move into NE. A paper dealing with NE’s work within and around towns and cities
was taken to the Strategy Sub-group of the NE Steering Group in April and was very well
received. In its discussion the Group highlighted the importance of ‘green infrastructure’
in underpinning the sustainability of urban and peri-urban areas and in bringing people,
nature and countryside into closer proximity.

Our regional teams are continuing to progress plans for implementing our vision for the
Countryside In and Around Towns (CIAT). That implementation process is using a
national implementation, monitoring and evaluation framework. A first and very early
stage evaluation report has been received from our consultants.

Research with the RDS has confirmed that farming decisions close to the urban edge and
in the deeper countryside are driven by the same issues (i.e. soil type, topography, climate,
markets and subsidies). We are now planning a piece of work to highlight how urban
fringe farmers can contribute to the delivery of Environmental Stewardship objectives.

We have issued a brief for research to assess how countryside management is being
delivered by and through local authorities across England. This sector has become more
complex and fragmented over the past ten years but it will be key to the delivery of our
vision for the CIAT.

An independent evaluation (part of the CIAT M and E) of the Thames Gateway
Greening the Gateway Partnership chaired by the Countryside Agency has demonstrated
that most members feel that good progress has been made by the partnership, reinforcing
the number of achievements identified at a review workshop. The evidence of good
progress was also based on the profile / good exposure that had been achieved with
specific reference to the Green Infrastructure Guidance and broadening understanding of
the benefits of multi-functionality, the Thames Gateway Forum Conference, and the
successful conference at Tate Modern in February 2005. Amongst the issues that have
emerged from this review is the need to more fully engage regeneration bodies, Local
Authorities and the private sector. An action-planning workshop to develop a targeted
action-plan is taking place in May.

Growth Areas

The growth areas team has been consolidating its experience on green infrastructure
planning and delivery and exporting it to other parts of the country. We gave
presentations to conferences of foresters in the South East Region and to the annual
national conference of the Institute of Chartered Foresters in Liverpool. We helped
launch the green infrastructure initiative for Yorkshire and the Humber and the North
West. We have also made presentations to the Annual general meeting of Wolverton
Unlimited in Milton Keynes and the New Lives Old Landscapes Conference organised
by English Heritage and the London Parks and Gardens Trust in the Thames Gateway
and the Landscape Character Network Conference on Green Infrastructure.



                                             8
We launched our publications and podcast on the views of young people on green
infrastructure in the Kent Thames Gateway in late March and have put renewed
emphasis on our input to the growth areas agenda in Ashford. We are helping the
attempts of the Natural England partners to find out about and respond to the plans for
new growth points. Our work on health and green infrastructure in the Thames Gateway
is proceeding, including the organisation of a conference on 12 June and our work with
CABE to identify the existing character of the Thames Gateway area and where it is
vested is keeping on target. Our work on green infrastructure in the Thames Gateway
has been mildly disrupted by news emerging that ODPM funding for implementing
greenspace projects is likely to be severely restricted over the next two years.

Living Landscapes and NE

We contributed to the development of the NE Corporate plan which is shortly to be
published. We are now working on the detailed plans for the Science Policy and Futures
Directorate which will be responsible for fulfilling the majority of former Countryside
Agency statutory duties when they transfer to Natural England.

ELMF

The budget for the IT development of the ELMF has been reduced substantially. The
ELMF project team are in the process of analysing the impact of this upon the project
and will be consulting on a new timetable for the ELMF. The partnership and Innovation
part of the fund may be affected, however the lack of IT funding should not impact upon
a redesign of business processes to streamline the fund's operation.

Regions

During March, CA, EN and RDS presented evidence jointly at the examination in public
of the North East Regional Spatial Strategy. Countryside Agency contribution on several
subjects was well received, particularly on Green Infrastructure planning where we were
asked to provide additional evidence for incorporation in the final revision. In the SE
region the Regional Assembly formally endorsed the SE plan which will now go to
examination in public in July. The confederation partners combined to agree comments,
although the EN issue of Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) was
omitted from the SE Plan pending clarification from Defra and ODPM. The SPA
requires a 5 km buffer zone around the heaths to protect ground-nesting birds from
disturbance by people, dogs and cats. The exclusion zone will hamper plans to build
20,000 new homes in the area.

The East Midlands team have been working with English Nature on a joint response to
the proposed A57 - A628 Mottram - Tintwistle bypass and A 628 - A616 route restraint
measures. An objection to the proposed scheme has been lodged on the basis of
landscape impact in the Peak District National Park and the potential adverse affect on
the integrity of a Natura 2000 site as well as factors such as increased air pollution.

In the North East there has been a spate of large terrestrial windfarm applications, with
six currently at some stage in the planning system on the way to determination by the

                                             9
Department of Trade & Industry, who have to determine applications involving over 50
Megawatts of energy. CA and the NE Partners are currently considering our responses.

The Yorkshire and Humber region held a very successful Green Infrastructure Places for
People and Prosperity conference. Attended by 150 delegates the Conference showcased
research undertaken by Leeds University in the Yorkshire and Humber Region,
exploring opportunities for increasing green infrastructure. Contributions included
speakers from France on nature parks; the Netherlands on the Green Heart initiative,
case studies from the UK growth areas, the Southern Pennines and the Lower Aire
Valley. The region also celebrated five years of the Walking the Way to Health Initiative
with a conference on walking and health. 100 regional delegates attended, to listen to
speakers of European renown. Each speaker focused on a different aspect of the benefits
to health of walking, including, walking as a means of transport, walking and
psychological benefits, walking and the frail elderly, and walking and Government policy.
The day began with a rousing introduction from Pam Warhurst and had a hilarious send-
off from Janet Street-Porter.

Having sought legal advice and got approval from Defra, the North East region are
proceeding to incorporate the new Hadrian's Wall Heritage Company, with the Agency
providing one of the founding directors along with One North East, North West
Development Agency and English Heritage. This new company will coordinate the
management of the heritage sites and the surrounding area's tourism providers. CA (and
then NE) will use the company as contractors to carry out monitoring and some
management work on Hadrian's Wall Path National Trail.

NE CEO-designate Helen Phillips has visited all regions and has met with staff, key
stakeholders and visited a number of different areas to increase her understanding of the
three organisations’ work.

Communications

The external communications team have been working hard to increase the profile of
LAR and NE. Our 50th AONB anniversary campaign was given a boost with good
coverage and full-page articles in the Guardian and Telegraph and radio interviews locally
and nationally on You and Yours. We have also organised radio interviews for Helen
Philips on Radio 5 Live and the Simon Mayo show. The Spring Walks campaign to
promote access land continued through March/ April with 22 regional publications
running advertisements on March 30th. Five of the publications also contained
Countryside Code leaflets as inserts, distributing 430,000 copies. This is in addition to
over 300 large size posters displayed on telephone boxes across Manchester, Birmingham
and Newcastle. John the Dog, one of the Countryside Code characters, joined staff and
visitors at the Outdoors Show in March, proving a real hit with the younger visitors. LAR
staff also attended the Education Show in March. The team continued to provide
briefing on the NERC Bill and covered the announcement about Royal Assent. Regional
work has included working jointly with EN and RDS partners on a staff presence at
events for the BBC's Breathing Places, coming up in June, and strengthening
relationships within the joint communications groups.



                                            10
The Research and Evidence team is making good progress on a number of fronts. The
team has taken on five extra staff on fixed term appointments to allow work required in
the run up to Natural England to be undertaken This will also enable the team to offer an
improved service to teams across LAR, supporting and assisting in research and
evaluation projects, and in data provision, analysis and presentation. In March and April
the team has been closely involved with constructing the first draft science offer for
Natural England; completing NE's spatial data strategy; commissioning a major project,
Natural England - learning lessons for Landscape Access and Recreation (NELLAR), the
aim of which is to make the main lessons from LAR available to all staff in Natural
England, wherever they work; completing work on LAR's research database and then
using that data in the preparation of a draft strategic research statement; formally
initiating a Project Board to oversee the scoping of a full outcome evaluation of the
Access to Open Land and registered Common Land programme.

The development of the Natural England Strategic outcomes document and subsequent
'offer process' has taken up a considerable amount of staff time at a national and regional
level.

Wider Welcome

Open Access

Survey work has been completed in the four coastal access study areas and analysis is
underway. Stakeholder meetings have been held in each area. They were well attended
and generated a lot of useful information and debate around coastal access issues.
Analysis of the output from these meetings is progressing well and will be an important
element in informing thinking about the different access options. Issues, opportunities
and delivery mechanisms in relation to nature conservation, landscape, historic
environment and interpretation will be considered in each of the four study areas.

The Access Management Grant Scheme have had a successful year with 90 offers of
grants being made to access authorities, these included: 30 for planning, 45 for practical
management works, 7 for staff posts, including wardening schemes, 2 for promotion, 4
for mines and quarries work, and 2 for social inclusion projects. The new integrated
service delivery team has started work. The team is made up of staff with skills in the
AMGS, restrictions casework and nature conservation assessments being brought
together to share their skills and provide a more seamless service to the local authorities.

The Dedications project is preparing Best Practice reports for securing access to water
along the Mersey and access for climbing.

The CA had a successful presence at The Education Show with the education packs
being extremely well received by professional educators and the media. As this was the
first spring since the completion of the new right of access to open country a public
information campaign of walks, ads, inserts and posters was successfully completed. The
Countryside Access website has been redesigned in line with users comments and with a
number of innovations, including a new walks feature. It went live on schedule on 31st
March to coincide with the spring publicity campaign.

                                             11
Best of Both Worlds website was launched at Outdoor Show in March, it is designed to
help build an understanding between recreation and nature conservation interests.

Diversity Review

An intensive period of working with our Defra colleagues has put the draft Action Plan
together ready for its launch at the Outdoors for All? Conference on 23 May. Interest in
attending is high with over one hundred delegates already registered.

Healthy Walking

Our 20,000th volunteer walk leader trained this week, highlighting the success of the
current system of cascade training. The sustainability of the schemes is based on the
involvement of volunteers willing to lead walks.

Following a high level of interest from Primary Care Trusts, the National Step-o-meter
Programme is commencing roll out of the step-o-meter with tailored training delivered
by specialist trainers directly to frontline PCT staff. The evaluation of this process is
currently being developed with support from the National Institute of Health and
Clinical Excellence with enough rigour to satisfy their recently released guidelines.

The Walking the Way to Health team are now involved with EN and RDS colleagues, in
developing a £20million Green Exercise portfolio bid to be submitted to the Well-being
fund of the Big Lottery fund. The bid will be made with the support of a number of high
profile national partners, and will have within it nine regional portfolios of projects of
varying types.

We envisage a wide variety of practical projects, some of which might be ‘bought in’
from pre-existing schemes run by national delivery partners, others might be delivered by
local or regional partners. They could be providing for a single activity to meet a
particular need or multi-activity hubs developed by means of a Green Exercise co-
ordinator. There are three reasons for this:

i)     we want to reach variety of audiences such as older people, teenagers, young
       families, those with mental health issues and those hard to reach groups that the
       BLF wishes to target;
ii)    we want to involve organisations that have a track record of experience in this area;
       and
iii)   we want to build on success.

The bid will be submitted for stage 1 on 9 June, and if successful the stage 2 bid will be
submitted on 12 October for a proposed rollout in January 2007.

National Trails

The Ridgeway Surface Action Plan is largely complete. Seasonal Traffic Regulation
Orders are proving hard to enforce and some sections of practical surface work are still

                                              12
incomplete. Where work has been completed, feedback from the public has been good.
The Pennine Bridleway didn't succeed in its bid to The Big Lottery for funding for the
northern extension to the Trail. Work continues to find other sources.

Recreation Facilities

An audit of country parks is underway to assess the progress made in the Country Parks
Renaissance Programme since it started 5 years ago. The audit will also test the new
Criteria for Country Parks which will provide information for use in greenspace strategies
and reaffirm the special place country parks have as an easily assessable greenspace for a
broad diversity of communities. Those parks that pass the essential criteria will become
accredited and publicised on the Country Parks Website. Regional support for country
parks is being centred around the Challenge Grant programme and also developing
regional networking opportunities.

A LAFs 'sub-section' has now been added to CA's web site. Although at present this
forms only an introductory page, links are included to Defra's web site and an e-mail
address list of all LAF secretaries. The latter feature should prove a useful information
source, not only for LAFs themselves, but for any organisations or members of the
public that want to contact their LAF. When Defra's revised LAF Regulations 2006 are
implemented (shortly), there will be an obligation on LAFs to inform CA/NE of
changes of secretaries, so the list will be continuously updated. Following a highly
successful LAFs Workshop co-hosted in February by CA and Defra, plans are now
proceeding for a LAF Members Information Handbook . Given the fairly comprehensive
nature of this document, the starting point has been an informal consultation exercise
over the contents, amongst all England's LAFs. This will be both web based and a new
publication for NE.

A survey of Rights of Way Improvement Plans progress has shown unitary authorities
lagging behind counties, with the key issue being the lack of an adequately resourced
team. A programme of further support is being delivered including web based guidance
on "How to write a good ROWIP" drawing on the exemplar research and examples from
published drafts, further signposting guides on consultation, network assessment and
producing a statement of action plus a national seminar on consultation and converting
results into meaningful policies. Regional staff are closely involved particularly in
supporting the weakest authorities. The ROWIP Implementation Grant programme has
also been launched and initial interest very encouraging.

Close links are being forged with the BHS to support an accessible web based GIS
database on where to go horse riding and what you might meet along the way, e.g.
barriers, difficult terrain or conditions. This is part of our efforts to implement the Horse
Industry Strategy Action Plan and "Outdoors on line". We are also encouraging closer
working between Sustrans and the BHS to encourage opening up more cycle routes to
horse riders.




                                             13
Recreation Strategy

We have a draft report from our contractors on the 2005 England Day Visits Survey,
which is going through an extensive checking process, before publication, we hope,
around the end of June, beginning of July.

Discovering Lost Ways

As part of the review of the research method the Archive Research Unit (ARU) pilot has
been extended to include a further two counties, Dorset and Shropshire. Revisions to
the pilot research methods are being tested before agreeing detailed plans for completing
the lead phase with partner authorities. We are maintaining a programme of regular
contact with local authorities, local access fora and user groups to introduce them to and
update them on DLW. All the lead counties have been actively engaged in the
development of the review of the research method.

Doorstep Greens

Helen Phillips launched our publication Opening Green Doors at a BTCV reception in
London on Monday 24th April.

Opening Green Doors tells the story of Doorstep Greens and follows through the
evaluation work on DGs undertaken in the last year or so. It includes a CD with
background information including the full evaluation, photographs, newsletters, case
studies etc.

For the National Audit Office value for money study on Enhancing Urban Greenspace,
we spent a good nine months providing the NAO team with information on Doorstep
Greens/ green space issues along with taking them out on site visits to show
opportunities and challenges. In the actual publication we had a couple of DG case
studies along with around 30 pictures of Doorstep Greens.

Doorstep Greens groups continue to win awards, such as the Taking a Stand award from
the Home Office. This is a very good way of raising the profile of both Doorstep Green
groups and the Countryside Agency initiative itself.

Education

We have reached a significant milestone with approval by the NE Strategy Sub Group of
the scope of NE's learning strategy.

The learning strategy will cover increasing public understanding of the natural
environment, skills training in its management and NE as a learning organisation. A
timetable of about 18 months has been agreed for the strategy development, although
current and some new activities will take place in the meantime.




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