CLA President Ross Murray looks forward to 2016.
“As we enter a new year we must start by ensuring we have a proper understanding of the scale and importance of rural business to our national economy. There are more than 600,000 rural businesses employing 2.8 million people in England and Wales.
“Our main priority for 2016 is to ensure that Government, Ministers and others recognise that these farming and other rural businesses are modern, diverse and innovative. All sectors of the economy are present in our rural communities and these businesses will play a critical role in meeting the challenge of growth, job creation and increased productivity in the months and years ahead.
“To achieve this Ministers must ensure that the needs of rural businesses are fully considered as new policy is developed. It is also vitally important that Government at all levels is considering the needs of rural communities when deciding where to invest in critical infrastructure, from broadband to road and rail. Throughout 2016 the CLA will be bringing decision makers and rural businesses together through a range of events around the country throughout the year.
“CLA lobbying has been successful in 2015 and we have influenced many of the decisions that will benefit the countryside because of it. The Prime Minister’s announcement in November of a Universal Service Obligation of 10 Mbps by the end of this parliament was a particularly importan milestone in a ten year CLA campaign. This commitment serves only to increase our determination to make sure Government and industry stick to this promise and ensure that a fast and reliable connection becomes a reality for every rural home and business.
“2016 will be a critical year for farming as we continue to struggle with a perfect storm of poor prices across a range of agricultural commodities and a volatile global marketplace not helped by the strength of sterling. A strong farming sector will always be the necessary foundation of a strong rural economy.
“The immediate priority is to ensure that farmers receive their basic support payments as soon as possible. The Rural Payments Agency must deliver on its commitment to have paid the vast majority by the end of January and endeavour to pay everyone as early in the new year as possible.
“We will also be looking to the long term with the publication of the 25 year strategy for food and farming early next year. It will be followed by an equally important 25 year strategy for the environment. The CLA is playing a full part in the development of both. It is vital that these strategies provide farmers with the reassurance that they will continue to receive support from Government. This is vital not only to ensure that the industry is resilient in difficult times, but also to ensure we fulfil our potential to lead the world in the quality of our produce and our land management practice.
“As the world sets about delivering on the Climate Change commitments made in Paris, the two 25 year strategies must acknowledge the vital role that landowners play in the adaption and mitigation of climate change. Many CLA members are dealing right now with the effects of extreme weather and flooding and we are committed to playing a full and constructive part in ongoing discussions about the future of land use to manage this particular challenge. Landowners have always taken a long term view on what actions and investments are needed to ensure we hand on land to the next generation in a better state that we inherited it. This challenge is important now as it has ever been.
“I wish all CLA members and colleagues a happy and prosperous new year.”
A look back at wins for rural businesses over 2015
Permitted Development Rights - New planning guidance from DCLG, developed as a direct result of sustained pressure from the CLA, was published to make it clearer when it is possible to change the use of former agricultural buildings into residential properties, which in turn will help to deliver beneficial economic growth and much needed new homes in rural areas.
Broadband USO – Prime Minister David Cameron announced thataccess to fast broadband is to be put on similar footing as other basic services, giving everyone a legal right to request a 10 Mbps connection by 2020.
Fly-tipping vehicle seizure - The Control of Waste (Dealing with Seized Property) Regulations 2015 came into force in England and Wales on 6 April 2015, broadening the range of offences for which a vehicle can be seized; removing the need for a warrant to be obtained before seizure; and setting out the circumstances under which the enforcement authority may sell or destroy seized property.
Fly-grazing - In early 2015, the CLA worked closely with a coalition of rural organisations and animal welfare charities to drive the Private Members’ Bill through Parliament which would give landowners greater powers to deal with horses left illegally on their land. The new Control of Horses Act came into force in England in May.
Dual use - Following continued pressure from the CLA, Farming Minister George Eustice announced that dual use - where a landowner receives a payment for an environmental management scheme and another receives a support payment under the common agricultural policy on the same parcel of land at the same time - would continue under Countryside Stewardship.
Compulsory purchase – A Government response to a consultation on Compulsory Purchase reform confirmed thatLocal Authorities and infrastructure companies may have to pay penal rates of interest if they fail to settle claims for advance compensation in a timely manner – a big win in the CLA’s campaign for reform of the Compulsory Purchase system.