CLA reacts to Autumn Financial Statement 2016

23 November 2016

The CLA which represents 32,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses across England and Wales, has responded to announcements on affordable housing, digital connectivity and infrastructure made by the Chancellor in his Autumn Financial Statement.

CLA President Ross Murray said: “It is hard to see from this Statement how rural business fits in to the Chancellors’ vision for Britain’s economic future. The investments announced today are overwhelmingly targeted at improving facilities within, and connections between, our cities. We understand why this is important but it must not be done at the expense of opportunities to support the rural economy and build the homes we need to sustain our rural communities.

“We will continue to make the case for the delivery of an economic vision that delivers increased productivity in the rural economy and build the homes that will sustain the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who live in our countryside.”

On affordable housing

“This £1.4 billion boost for affordable housing schemes is a positive sign that the Government understands the need to make living in your own home more attainable for more people. This is a vital challenge in our countryside.

“Making sure these schemes work for rural landowning businesses wanting to provide more housing is the key to making this a success. There is more to do to cut red tape and increase access to funding for those private landowners seeking to build, convert and manage their own affordable housing in rural areas. Also, we will continue to press for new tax incentives to encourage investment in affordable housing by farmers and other rural business owners.”

On digital connectivity

“The new £400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund is overly focused on giving city based homes and businesses access to fibre to premises, hyperfast broadband. There is little comfort in this for rural people still struggling to get minimum connection speeds. Connecting the ‘final 5%’ of rural communities and businesses must remain the priority until the job is done.

“Action to reduce rates bills for fibre optic broadband infrastructure creates an opportunity to increase the affordability of roll out in more rural areas and we will press for the industry to deliver on it.”

On infrastructure and compulsory purchase reform

“Delivering the investment we need in infrastructure from road and rail to digital connections is vital. However it will involve more compulsory purchase of land from farmers and other property owners. There is still more to do to ensure that the reform of these antiquated laws delivers fairness and certainty to those affected. Failure to deliver on compulsory purchase reform costs tax payers money and causes heartache for families and communities."