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Producing leisure spaces out of thin air: the case of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme

By Neil Ravenscroft


This paper examines the growing dysfunction between the apparently increasing significance of diverse leisure practices in the countryside and the largely unchanging official response towards them. Although there is recognition in the recent rural White Paper (DOE and MAFF, 1995) that access is essential to enjoying the countryside, the construction of this term is dubious, since paid access agreements, based on producer requirements, are favoured over any form of demand-driven freedom to roam. Using the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) as an example of the incentive structure developed to promote this policy, the paper applies Plato's simulacrum as a reading of how this process is being utilised to underpin the dominant rights associated with rural property interests. In particular, the paper makes the point that rather than representing the corollary of a market situation, as its supporters claim, the CSS involves government grant for the eclectic provision of short term licences over ground which remains unmapped as anything other than its continued agricultural use. In concluding, the paper asserts that rather than representing an increase in the availability of leisure sites in the countryside, the CSS and other schemes represent a diversion from the wider and deeper socio-cultural process of continued wealth and power redistribution

Publisher: University of Reading
Year: 1995
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