Chancellorís support for planning reform a breath of fresh air
The Chancellor's announcement that the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will refocus planning policy to support growth in rural areas will come as a breath of fresh air to businesses based in or seeking to relocate to the countryside Ė according to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).
Commenting on today's Budget Statement, CLA East director Nicola Currie, praised Mr Osborne for promising to deliver a planning framework which was inherently pro-growth with a powerful presumption in favour of sustainable development - so that the default answer to development would become 'yes'.
"The Government has resisted calls from organisations which have campaigned so vigorously to have the 'presumption in favour of sustainable development' ripped out of the NPPF. This crucial element of reform is absolutely key to the planning system working effectively and Mr Osborne's assertion that: 'you can't earn your future, if you can't get planning permission' made it clear he fully understood the problems and frustrations," said Mrs Currie.
Confirmation that the reforms, due to be published on Tuesday, will see planning guidance cut from more than 1,000 pages to around 50 was, she said, also welcome news - but Mrs Currie warned that, as always, the Devil could be in the detail and said the CLA would: "Await the full details of the NPPF with caution."
News that the Government is going to reduce the cost, complexity and delay to businesses that the Habitats Directive can currently cause will also offer a welcome boost to businesses. Mrs Currie said she hoped that, when the full details are published, a reasonable perspective could be applied to the headaches currently caused by some aspects of the Directive.
Overall, however, the Budget offered a more mixed picture for rural communities. Mrs Currie said that the Chancellor's failure to stop the proposed rise in fuel duty would hit people in rural areas particularly hard.
"We don't have the transport options which are available to people in towns and cities so this could damage economic recovery by penalising people who have to drive to work because they live in rural communities. It will also impose a cash penalty on everybody who has to use a car to access public services."
Mrs Currie was also critical of the fact that the budget appeared to have ignored fast broadband for rural communities completely.
"The Chancellor's pledge to have mobile phone coverage provided to 60,000 rural homes which currently lack reception is clearly welcome Ė but we are concerned that the additional £50million for superfast broadband is going to 10 so-called 'smaller super-connected cities' rather than rural areas. We do need clarification on whether this money has been taken from investment previously promised for broadband in the countryside," she said.
The CLA has also criticised the removal of zero percent VAT for alteration work on listed buildings - without reducing the VAT rate for repair works.
"If the Chancellor seriously wanted to encourage the maintenance of our national heritage he would have reduced the rate on repairs to five percent at the same time - we have advocated as part of the Cut the VAT campaign."
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Nicola has a Post Graduate Diploma in Advanced Farm Management from the Royal Agricultural College (RAC) and seven years experience as a Tenant Farmer, building up a pedigree dairy herd from scratch. She has also spent time in professional practice in Estate and Farm Management. This background has provided Nicola with a useful grounding to work for the interests of the CLA East regionís farming and rural businesses.
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