Letter: Countryside myth

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The Independent Online
IT IS disturbing to see the Countryside March being taken seriously by the Government. The Prime Minister has laid great stress upon his project of modernisation: of the Labour Party, and now of the country. Most of the disparate protesters grouped around the demonstration seek to uphold the most backward-looking of social relations.

In many rural areas the social cohesion essential to the maintenance of shops and services is undermined by people who are absent in towns during the day. House prices soar, and those who actually need to live and work in the countryside are driven further to the social margins. Meanwhile many town centres are depleted because too many of those who work in towns (especially the wealthy ones) do not live as part of the communities which provide their employment. The shuttling between rural home and urban work helps to clog roads and contributes to pollution.

The solution is not, as has been suggested within government, to subsidise petrol for rural dwellers. That will simply be a form of regressive taxation whereby the urban poor subsidise the maintenance of a middle-class dream of "a home in the country". A better solution would be tax incentives for those who live close to their place of work.

This is a predominantly urban society which culturally subscribes to the view that non-metropolitan urban life is always second-best and rural life always preferable. That has to change. We are pulling down tower blocks which in other countries would be desirable homes, and building miserable and alienating suburbs on greenfield sites because of the grip of a mythical pastoralism on our imaginations.

The whingeing of the country movement proposes nothing that will modernise Britain and revitalise our society. The best thing they could do would be to support an urban movement to transform our towns.

YASMIN ALI

Preston, Lancashire

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