RICHARD Holden, newly elected MP for North West Durham, has met local farmers and landowners to hear about threats and opportunities presented to them by forthcoming legislation on agriculture and the environment.

He met with Willy Browne-Swinburne, chairman of the North East Country Land and Business Association (CLA), at Bradley Burn Farm, Wolsingham - a mixed arable and beef farm with tourism diversification belonging to CLA members Chris and Jill Stephenson.

Discussions took place around the five main themes of the CLA’s Rural Powerhouse campaign which is pressing for better connectivity; greater investment in skills and innovation; simpler tax regime; and a planning system that will enable farmers and landowners to diversify into other income steams to remain profitable and sustainable.

Chris Stephenson was pleased Mr Holden visited the farm. He said: "It isn’t just about how the new system will work but also how we transition to a new way of working. With our café, farm-shop, caravan and accommodation business alongside our farming enterprise we have, over the years taken business decisions to ensure we are able to continue to provide food with a high welfare and environmental standard and it is important that these new policies enable us to continue."

Mr Holden said: "It was good to hear first-hand about the challenges and opportunities facing farmers and landowners; the environment is at the forefront of policy makers’ minds at the moment.

"It is useful to hear about the fantastic work that is already being delivered by farmers and landowners and to understand what more can be done with the correct policy framework to protect the environment at the same time as maintaining and improving productivity."