Rural business leaders will tell Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom today (6 December) that the Government’s Industrial Strategy and the 25-year Plan for Food and Farming must unlock the investment potential of countryside.
Mrs Leadsom will be warned at the CLA’s Rural Business Conference in Westminster that if she and other Ministers fail to include the countryside in future political thinking then the economic uncertainties fuelled by Brexit and volatile agricultural prices will severely harm the prospects of vital investments being made across the rural economy.
This call for action comes in the context of concerns that business growth policies announced in the Autumn Statement focused on towns and cities but ignored rural businesses.
The CLA, which represents 32,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses in England and Wales, is urging Government to set out a new tax roadmap for family businesses, to finish the job of reforming the planning system, and undertake regulatory changes that allow more rural businesses to enter into new markets such as supplying broadband and energy to local customers.
CLA President and Monmouthshire rural business owner Ross Murray said: “For far too long Government policy has allowed a focus on business support and infrastructure spending in our towns and cities to undermine the focus needed on promoting growth and investment in our countryside. Never has it been more important to address this imbalance than today as the rural economy prepares for the potentially seismic changes of Brexit. The new Industrial Strategy and the 25 year plan for food and farming are the opportunity to address this imbalance and they must be taken.”
More than 400 rural business owners attending the Conference were given sight of new research commissioned by the CLA which revealed that landowning businesses in rural England and Wales – 96% of which are family businesses – are currently investing more than £13 billion a year, and there is potential for this figure to increase. It also painted an optimistic picture about the future with more than 80% of landowning rural businesses planning to make investments for business resilience and growth.
Mr Murray added: “Businesses based on rural land are vibrant, full of entrepreneurial energy and looking to the future. Our new report shows there are great opportunities for these small family businesses to boost the rural economy in the years ahead, particularly through new business ventures such as becoming suppliers of better high speed broadband and renewable electricity or heating systems. They are up for the challenge, but they face an uphill struggle if Government doesn’t start doing more to champion this type of rural investment.”
The CLA Rural Business 2030 report is published today at www.cla.org.uk/ruralbusiness2030. The report is the result of a yearlong programme gathering evidence and insight about the future of rural business. It includes new large scale research of investment intentions by rural business owners and a series of seminars gathering experts together from across the rural business and other sectors, academics and policymakers. Click here to read the CLA Rural Business 2030 report, published today at the CLA's rural business conference.