Government must act in the interest of the rural economy, says CLA

The government must set clear milestones on how it will upgrade the rural economy to benefit rural communities, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has said.

New planning measures were outlined in the Leveling and Regeneration Bill after it was announced in Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech.

The bill includes proposals to revamp the planning system “to involve residents more in local development”, as well as requiring landlords to rent empty shops.

In response, the CLA called on the government to include key measures in the new legislative program to close the rural productivity gap.

There are over 500,000 rural businesses in England and Wales and together they form the backbone of the rural economy.

But figures show that rural productivity is 18% below the national average.

The bill proposes to overhaul the “one size fits all” planning system, which the CLA says has disadvantaged rural areas, especially villages.

Instead, new design codes would allow local communities to set rules for the layout of new developments.

The goal of getting as close as possible to the goal of building 300,000 new homes a year was also a crucial part of solving the rural productivity gap, the CLA said.

The more affordable houses there were in rural areas, the more people could afford to live where they worked, the organization said, which would help keep money within the local community.

CLA added that it would be important for these projects to be carried out in all types of settlements, including the organic and incremental growth of small rural villages and hamlets – and not just focusing on urban expansion programs.

CLA Chairman Mark Tufnell said, “We strongly underscore the urgency of the proposed measures to simplify local plans and digitize the planning system as it relates to rural economies.

“Rural businesses are negatively affected by a planning system that is not fit for purpose, with many local plans perpetually outdated, coupled with staffing issues in planning authorities across the country.

“We call for a strong and coherent planning system fit for purpose as soon as possible, otherwise efforts to close the productivity gap between rural and urban businesses will never be achieved.”

He warned: “If these issues are not addressed, we are faced with the long-term sustainability of rural businesses and communities, with their need for jobs, housing and access to services being left out of the leveling agenda and ultimately failing.”

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