AMID all the gloomy news concerning the foot and mouth crisis this week, there was at least some encouragement for the district in the continuing achievements of local businesses.

The first firms only moved on to the new Malvern Hills Science Park in October, 1999 and already there are hopes of pumping a further £18 million into supporting the development of high-tech companies here in Malvern.

And Malvern Hills District Council's Platinum Awards for business excellence have only been going for three years, and in that time have proved remarkably successful.

Those who won awards this year were genuinely thrilled to have their work recognised and the regard in which the competition is held can be judged by its having had more than 60 entrants. With so many innovative and energetic people at work in the district, there is every reason to be optimistic for its future when we emerge from the current crisis.

But what this crisis has underlined is how much the success of a rural area likes ours is tied to the health of the agricultural industry, something the Government seems to find it difficult to understand. It's ironic that those farmers who have diversified into tourism - this Government's dream solution for the countryside - now find there are no tourists.