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© Natural England / Nick TurnerThe aim of CQC is to make an evidence-based judgement about the implications of countryside change. From the outset of the project it was recognised that even though this judgement was to be based on the analysis of quantitative data, the final judgements about the magnitude and direction of change were essentially qualitative.

Since it is possible that other people may interpret the underlying evidence differently, it was important that the analysis undertaken by the CQC team was tested, so that the overall confidence in the final results could be determined. This was achieved by setting up a nationwide consultation, which took place in two stages:

During the most recent round of assessment (1999-2003), both consultation exercises were carried out via the project website. This approach contrasted with that used for the first assessment (1990-1998), which sought feedback via a series of regional workshops. While the latter were effective, the web-based consultation took in the views of a much wider community in a more cost-effective and rigorous manner.

In total 434 consultees (both individuals and organisations) registered for the two stages of consultation. The exercise proved invaluable in that it not only helped eliminate those issues that were no longer relevant, or had been duplicated, but also because it extended the range of concerns that people thought important.

A breakdown of the different groups of people who participated is as follows:

CQC participants pie chart

On the basis of the consultation responses, we suggest that the headline result is a robust one - independent observers, represented by the consultees, agreed with the assessment made by the Project Team roughly nine times out of ten.