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Duke of Edinburgh voices concerns over village life

The Duke of Edinburgh has delivered a damning assessment of country life, claiming villages are now simply populated by commuters and traditional shops have lost out to large retail centres.

Rural settlements have changed significantly from places where farm workers lived to providing second homes for those who are employed in towns and cities, the senior royal stated.

The Duke's comments were made in an extensive interview for the latest edition of Shooting Times & Country Magazine where he suggested the butcher and baker had been forced out of business by multi-stores.

The royal also criticised the agricultural industry, saying it was trying to create cattle that would produce more milk for less cow "like a hat-rack with an udder attached", while 'bizarrely' milk was cheaper than bottled water.

"The human population increase is very evident. There are so many more people living in the country and moving into the countryside.

"The country villages have changed from the sense of being places where people who were associated with the countryside were living and now most of them are second homes occupied by commuters," the Duke said.

The Prince of Wales has also voiced similar concerns in the past, commenting on the lack of affordable village housing for local people.

Speaking in Cumbria in 2006 he said this issue could threaten the very existence of rural communities.

Charles said: "Who will look after it all when villages are simply dormitories to commute from or temporary bolt holes from city living?"

The Duke also talked about the loss of rural businesses that he said were the mainstay of country life.

He said: "Villages used to have to be more or less self sufficient: they had a butcher, a baker, a shoemaker.

"Now that has all gone because of the way retailing is concentrated in big centres and multi-stores.

"So there has been a complete change in the population of the countryside."

Philip has a long held passion for conservation and environmental issues and takes a keen interest in how the royal estates are run.

He warned that some modern farming practices were having a negative effect on wildlife and that livestock breeding processes were also producing worrying results.

"They are constantly trying to produce cattle that will produce more milk and less cow - like a hat rack with an udder attached," he said.

"They can't really go on making such a travesty of an animal, there must be a limit to this.

"Even more ridiculous is the fact that milk is actually cheaper than bottled water. It seems quite bizarre to me."

The senior royal said the country's growing population was the "greatest problem for the future".

Philip said: "People go on about this carbon footprint, but they fail to realise that the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere is entirely dependent on the number of people living on the earth.

"There are now 60 million people living in this country and we are about the same land size as New Zealand. Their population is just over four million.

"This country had three million people in Elizabeth I's day."