A look back at 2016

22 December 2016

January

The CLA published Standing up for Rural Businesses. This included new figures quantifying the input of rural businesses across England and Wales to the national economy. It also outlined recommendations for Government to help support rural businesses in the four key policy areas under discussion in Parliament at that time. Click here to read the CLA’s Standing up for Rural Business report.

February

The results of Government pilot projects delivering broadband to rural areas were hailed by the CLA as “an important milestone towards real solutions”. The pilots produced evidence that a ‘hybrid approach’ using a variety of technologies can help provide the hardest to reach areas with fast, reliable and affordable broadband. This came only months after the Prime Minister announced a universal service obligation for superfast broadband across the UK - a definitive breakthrough for CLA lobbying. Click here for more information.

March

The CLA announced it would not be campaigning for either outcome of the EU referendum, instead pledging to ensure those leading the debate on both sides were challenged with the right questions about how the rural economy would be sustained in the future. The CLA’s report, Leave or Remain: The decisions that Politicians must make to support the rural economy gave CLA members the answers necessary to help make their own decision. Click here to look back at the CLA’s Leave or Remain report.

Chancellor George Osborne’s Spring Budget announced further funding for flood defences. The CLA said the money should be used to help improve natural defences. Click here to read the CLA’s response to the Spring Budget Statement.

April

The Housing and Planning Bill entered the House of Lords for detailed scrutiny, during which CLA lobbying saw a significant victory in ensuring that legislation to force local authorities to require the construction of ‘starter homes’ rather than other forms of affordable housing would not go ahead. The bill received Royal Assent later in May. Click here for more information on CLA lobbying.

Prime Minister David Cameron responded to a letter from CLA President Ross Murray calling for Government to outline a Plan B for farming in the case of a Brexit vote.

May

In her annual address the Queen set out plans for the following pieces of legislation of note to the countryside:

  • Digital Economy Bill
  • Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill (which would later become the Neighbourhood Planning Bill)

Over five months since the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payment window opened, many farmers in England were still without their 2015 basic payment and had received no communication from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). The CLA wrote to Defra Permanent Secretary Clare Moriarty to reaffirm the CLA’s commitment to helping Defra and the RPA deliver outstanding BPS payments for 2015, with a four-point plan to help resolve the crisis. Click here for more information on the CLA’s BPS action plan.

June

Regional, national and international media was consumed with Brexit headlines as the UK headed to the polls to vote in the referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union.
But there was also media discussion around plant protection products as the European Commission decided to reauthorise the use of chemical weed killer Glyphosate (commonly known as ‘Roundup’) for a further 18 months. Responding to a consultation, the CLA said decisions must be based on a proportionate and clear science-led approach. Click here for more on the CLA’s response to the European Commission’s decision on Glyphosate and Endocrine Disrupters.

The CLA conducted its first seminar of the year-long Rural Business 2030 programme. The CLA and Strutt & Parker held a series of seminars to explore how landowning rural businesses can take advantage of investment in connectivity, energy and natural capital. Click here to find out more about the CLA’s Rural Business 2030 programme and seminar series.

July

Following the Brexit vote and resignation of David Cameron, a new Government was formed with Theresa May as PM. Andrea Leadsom, Mrs May’s final opponent in the short but eventful race for 10 Downing Street, was welcomed to the Cabinet in the role of Environment Secretary.

The CLA partnered with Scottish Land and Estates to publish the New Opportunities briefing series. This outlined how Government could help deliver for the rural economy in post-Brexit Britain, focusing on direct support, trade, regulation, labour and devolution. Click here for more on the CLA’s New Opportunities briefings.

August

Government acted on the first of the CLA’s calls to help farmers and other landowners prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU, guaranteeing to fund basic payments under CAP Pillar 1 until the end of 2020.

The CLA organised a string of events across the country to discuss the implications of the vote to leave the European Union. These regional road shows gave CLA members a unique opportunity to hear from CLA experts how Government is set up to manage the UK’s exit from the European Union, its priorities, and the implications of these decisions for those that own land and run businesses in the countryside.

September

Government attention returned to flooding when it was announced that £1m had been paid out to more than 180 flood-hit farmers to help their business recover. Government then published its national flood resilience review which offered little in recommendations to protect the countryside from flooding. CLA President Ross Murray branded the review ‘disappointing’ for its focus on urban areas. Click here to read the CLA’s response to the national flood resilience review.

October

The CLA welcomed Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s pledge to guarantee funding for agri-environment schemes signed after the Autumn Statement and which continue after the UK has left the EU. The announcement came after a series of meetings and correspondence between the CLA and Government on the subject. Also announced was a commitment to structural growth funds, which play an important role in diversifying rural economies. Click here for more on the announcement and the CLA’s response.

November

The route for phase 2b of the HS2 railway line was announced. As the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill entered the House of Lords, the CLA appeared twice before the Lords Select Committee, calling on HS2 Ltd to accept changes in legislation to support those affected by compulsory purchase and save millions of pounds for the taxpayer. The CLA wrote to the chairman of HS2 Ltd stating that poor engagement with land and property owners has resulted in severe distrust of the company. A report by the Select Committee was later published recommending to ministers some of the proposals made by the CLA. Click here for more on the Lords report on HS2.

December

The CLA’s Rural Business 2030 programme culminates in our inaugural Rural Business Conference at Church House, Westminster. It brought businesses and policy makers together to discuss practical ways in which we can achieve the vision of a robust, productive and sustainable rural economy in 2030. Delegates met entrepreneurs and heard fresh research into the businesses shaping the rural economy. Click here for highlights from the conference and to read the Rural Business 2030 report and supporting papers.