The Countryside Agency was a statutory body set up in England in 1999 with the task of improving the quality of the rural environment and the lives of those living in it. The Agency was formed by merging the Countryside Commission and the Rural Development Commission. Its powers were inherited from those bodies.
Rural Development Commission
Commission for Rural Communities
Its main aims were to 'conserve and enhance England's countryside, spread social and economic opportunity for the people who live there and help everyone, wherever they live and whatever their background to enjoy the countryside and share in this priceless asset more'. Funding came from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as an annual budget of around £100 million. The Agency was based in Cheltenham with smaller offices in London and the regions. Total staff numbers were around 600.
Following a review by Christopher Haskins of several Government organisations involved in rural policy and delivery, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 dissolved the Agency. Those parts of the Countryside Agency charged with environmental activity were merged with English Nature and parts of the Rural Development Service to form Natural England. The socio-economic functions of the Rural Development Commission had already transferred to the Regional Development Agencies in 1999 (they were in their turn replaced by local enterprise partnerships in 2012). The remaining parts of the Countryside Agency, largely research and policy functions, became the Commission for Rural Communities which was abolished in 2013.
- Defra: Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 Archived April 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- "Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006". www.legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
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