Countryside views

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
September 16, 2011, 10:59 PM GMT+0

None of the three major political parties best reflect the interests of people in the countryside, according to a significant percentage of the British public, while the Tories’ traditional reputation as the party of the countryside looks on slightly shaky ground.

Following a series of questions which asked British people about the Coalition’s intentions to change planning law, we then asked which party best represented the countryside’s interests – with no party gaining a majority vote, with a higher proportion choosing ‘none’ rather than a particular party. Additionally, when asked specifically if the Conservatives’ policies represent the views of people in the countryside, opinion was split, and a substantial two in five people said they weren’t sure.

  • 33% of Britons say that ‘none’ of the main three political parties best reflect the interests of the people in the countryside
  • 29% think the Conservatives, 12% say Labour and 6% think the Liberal Democrats
  • A significant 20% say they didn’t know
  • When it comes to the Conservatives’ policies, just 7% say that they represent the views of the countryside ‘more than they have in the past’
  • Compared to 19% who think that the Tories ‘represent the views of people in the countryside more than they have in the past’
  • 19% think that the recent policies represent ‘no difference’ to the Tories’ reflection of people in the countryside’s views, as they ‘have always represented these views’
  • Compared to 14% who feel that the Conservatives have ‘never’ represented the views of people in the countryside
  • A sizeable 40% say that they are not sure

Housing: Greenbelt crisis

The results come as Coalition ministers seek to defend the changes they intend to make to current planning legislation.

Making it easier to build on currently unused land, supporters say, will help ease the housing shortage and promote growth, improving the economy in addition.
However, campaigners argue that such plans threaten the countryside and will facilitate the building on currently protected, greenbelt land.

Planning minister Greg Clark addressed the housing crisis as ‘bequeathed to us by the last Labour Government’ and told MPs: ‘we are determined that we shall preserve the character of Middle England ‒ but young England needs a roof over its head too’.

However, campaigners argue that the planning reforms are about short term gains and boosting growth figures over sustainable development. Conservation group The Campaign to Protect Rural England told the BBC that it will create irreversible damage, whilst Labour MPs criticise it as a ‘charter for sprawl’ and proof ‘that you can't trust the Conservatives with the British countryside’, in rebuttal of MP Eric Pickles, who has insisted that while the Last Labour Government actively ‘promised to build’ on greenbelt land, the Tory proposals will protect such sites.

Notwithstanding, our poll from earlier this month showed that while over half of the British public would support Government plans to hand more planning permission powers over to local councils in England, significant numbers agree that National Trust fears over the damage the plans could cause to the country’s green belt may be well-founded.