An extraordinary year for the countryside

22 December 2016

Looking back over 2016, CLA President Ross Murray writes:

"2016 has been an extraordinary year for the countryside.

"Brexit dominated our thinking throughout the year as the EU referendum decision resulted in an outcome that will have greater changes to the rural economy than any decision taken in the past 40 years. The subsequent political twists and turns have now settled and we will begin 2017 with a continued focus on securing the best deal for rural communities in any and all Brexit negotiations.

"But plenty of activity has also taken place across our countryside away from the spectre of Brexit. A tree in Norfolk was discovered to show signs of resistance to harrowing tree disease Ash Dieback. The Pokemon Go craze swept the nation and saw many young people get out and explore the countryside. And rural businesses across Britain were honoured for their contribution to their local communities in the second annual Rural Business Awards.

"British farmers have continued to battle against low commodity prices and a volatile global marketplace. A strong farming sector will always be the necessary foundation of a strong rural economy, which is why we have been active in advocating principles for a world-leading domestic Food, Farming and Environmental policy as we look to exit the EU.

"Our campaign for greater fairness in the compulsory purchase system passed many milestones over the past 12 months. Back in March we found success in securing a much higher penal rate of interest for late payments. Our petition in the House of Lords has also helped to convince peers to back CLA calls to block HS2 from compulsorily purchasing land for developments unrelated to the project.

"CLA lobbying on affordable rural housing, approaches to flood defences and improving digital connectivity has also seen considerable success as you can see in our look back over 2016.

"But 2016 was very much the year of rural business. Throughout the past 12 months the CLA has worked to champion the importance of our rural businesses and highlight how Government can help the rural economy – the Cinderella of the national economy - to blossom and grow in line with Government’s 2030 vision.

"As this year draws to a close we will continue to make clear in our messages to Government, the media and to our wider membership that we rural businesses are not only agents for change but, more importantly, we are investors for the future.

"I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year."