The Liberal Democrat Party has released its Manifesto (17th May) ahead of the General Election on 8th June. The Countryside Alliance’s campaigns team has been through the document and selected some highlights which will impact on rural communities. We hope the below facts and policies will inform you as we head towards the most important election the country, and the countryside, has known in many years. You can download the document here. We will bring you highlights of other party manifestos as they are published. Please ensure you are registered to vote before the deadline on 22nd May – click here for more www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Environment

The European Union has created the highest environmental standards in the world. We have a duty to future generations to protect our environment and tackle climate change. Liberal Democrats will ensure that everything is done to maintain those high standards in UK law, including the closest possible co-operation on climate and energy policy. p. 11.

Liberal Democrats are determined that we live up to our environmental obligations. That’s why we will pass five green laws: a Green Transport Act, a Zero-Carbon Britain Act, a Nature Act, a Green Buildings Act, and a Zero-Waste Act to incorporate existing EU environmental protections, maintain product standards such as for energy efficiency, and establish a framework for continual improvement. p. 47.

Protect and restore England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, including through reform of water management and higher water-efficiency standards, and establish a ‘blue belt’ of protected marine areas. p. 50.

Significantly increase the amount of accessible green space, including completion of the coastal path, and create a new designation of national nature parks to protect up to one million acres of accessible green space valued by local communities. p. 50.

Reverse the current sharp decline in the rate of woodland creation by aiming to plant a tree for every UK citizen over the next 10 years, and protect remaining ancient woodlands. p. 50.

Communities

New direct spending on housebuilding to help build 300,000 homes a year by 2022. p. 36.

Work with local authorities to deliver a significant increase in social and affordable housing in rural areas p65.

Create at least 10 new garden cities in England, providing tens of thousands of high-quality, zero-carbon homes, with gardens and shared green space, jobs, schools and public transport. p. 61.

Establish a £2 billion flood-prevention fund focused on providing support for small community and council-led schemes to reduce upstream flooding, and the knock-on effects in downstream and coastal areas, in addition to improving flood defences, and introducing high standards for flood resilience for buildings and infrastructure in flood-risk areas. p. 50.

Review the Business Rates system, prioritise reforms that recognise the development of the digital economy, lessening the burden on smaller businesses, and ensuring high streets remain competitive. We will also consider the implementation of Land Value Taxation. p. 40.

Set up a £2 billion Rural Services Fund of capital investment to enable communities to establish a local base from which to co-locate services such as council offices, post offices, children’s centres, libraries and visiting healthcare professionals. p. 65.

Commit to preventing Post Office closures and protect Royal Mail’s Universal Service Obligation to deliver across the UK for the same price. p. 65.

Increase community policing in England and Wales by giving an additional £300 million a year to local police forces to reverse the increase in violent crime, boost community confidence and increase the flow of community intelligence. p. 72.

Replace Police and Crime Commissioners, elected at great expense in elections with very low turnout, with accountable police boards made up of local councillors. p. 74.

Build on the success of crime maps to use data more effectively to reduce crime and improve policing, including exploring the feasibility of mandatory reporting of fraud losses by individual credit and debit-card providers. p. 74.

Digital Communications

Work with Ofcom to ensure that mobile phone companies provide fast and reliable coverage in rural areas. p. 65.

Invest to ensure that broadband connections and services to be provided before 2020 have a speed of 2 Gbps or more, with fibre to the premises (FTTP) as standard and unlimited usage by 2020 across the whole of the UK. SMEs should be prioritised in the roll-out of hyperfast broadband. p. 41.

Ensure that every property in the UK is provided, by 2022, with a superfast broadband connection with a download speed of 30Mbps, an upload speed of 6Mbps, and an unlimited usage cap. p. 65.

Invest £2 billion in innovative solutions to ensure the provision of highspeed broadband across the rural UK, working with local authorities and providing grants to help areas replicate the success of existing community-led projects. p. 65.

Commit to build digital skills in the UK and retain coding on the national curriculum in England. p. 41.

Oppose ‘fracking’ because of its adverse impact on climate change, the energy mix, and the local environment. p. 49.

Animal Welfare

Introduce stronger penalties for animal cruelty offences, increasing the maximum sentencing from six months to five years, and bring in a ban on caged hens. p. 52.

Clamp down on illegal pet imports through legal identification requirements for online sales, and minimise the use of animals in scientific experimentation, including by funding research into alternatives. p. 52.

Food and Farming

We believe that any deal negotiated for the UK outside the EU must ensure that trade can continue without customs controls at the border, and must maintain membership of the single market, which smooths trade between the UK and the continent by providing a common ‘rule book’ for businesses and a common mechanism to ensure that everyone abides by the rules. p. 10.

We support the principle of freedom of movement – to abandon it would threaten Britain’s prosperity and reputation as an open, tolerant society… Any restrictions sought by the government must take account of the vital importance of EU workers to the British economy, including public services. p. 10.

Continue our long campaign to reform agricultural subsidies – making sure British farming remains competitive and doesn’t lose out in the event of Britain leaving the EU, rebalancing away from direct subsidy and refocusing support towards the public benefits that come from effective land management

including countryside protection, flood prevention, food production and climate-change mitigation. This would ensure that smaller farms are protected and move support away from large landowners, while delivering a more localised agricultural policy. p. 52.

Encourage new and younger entrants to farming by championing different forms of ownership including longer tenancies, share farming and community ownership. p. 52.

Introduce a national food strategy to promote the production and consumption of healthy, sustainable and affordable food. p. 52.

Increase the powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator and extend its remit to include businesses further up the supply chain, helping to ensure that farmers receive a fair price. p. 52.

Continue to improve standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture by updating farm animal welfare codes and promoting the responsible stewardship of antibiotic drugs. p. 52.

Ensure that future trade deals require high safety, environmental and animal welfare standards for food imports, including clear and unambiguous country-of-origin labelling for meat and dairy products. p. 52.

Develop safe, effective, humane and evidence-based ways of controlling bovine TB, including by investing to produce workable vaccines. p. 52.

Suspend the use of neonicotinoids until proven that their use in agriculture does not harm bees or other pollinators. p. 50.