The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, has revealed that Cheshire has topped its new league table as the best county in England for running a rural business.
Cheshire is followed by Cumbria and Oxfordshire in equal second place. Gloucestershire came in fourth, followed by Surrey in fifth place. See the map of the top 10 counties here.
The CLA Rural Business County League Table scores each county on some of the main criteria which can support or challenge rural firms. These include the extent of broadband and mobile coverage; adoption of local plans by planning authorities; opportunities for development of rural skills; and entrepreneurial dynamism.
The table also reveals new survey results commissioned by the CLA on local preference for using rural businesses.
CLA President Henry Robinson said: “Across the country rural businesses are starting up, making investments and creating jobs. Operating in a rural area brings opportunities but also challenges and there is much that can be done to help them to succeed. In this table we shine a light on some of the main factors that can help a business succeed. The areas that top our list have rated most consistently across a range of factors.
“Top of the list is connectivity, almost any type of business can operate from a rural area if they have good quality mobile and internet connection. Unfortunately getting the coverage that a business needs remains a postcode lottery and too many businesses are losing out. We need government, councils and network providers to focus on delivery especially in our most remote areas.
“A growing business often needs space or to update existing buildings and facilities. This can be frustrated by poorly managed planning systems. Our table rates the performance of planning authorities on whether they have Local Plans in place and whether they are permitting or refusing applications to convert and change buildings.”
“It is high time that rural businesses in all parts of the country are valued and encouraged to grow.”
CLA Member Robert Parton owns Aqueduct Marina at Church Minshull in Cheshire. He said: “I’m not surprised. Cheshire really is open to business.
“I know it’s easy to criticise, but we’ve had considerable support for our marina, especially from elected councillors who can see that we are a good, successful business and responsible employers who give back to the community.
“The planners have tended to say yes to our developments once we have satisfied the - sometimes expensive - needs for environmental and landscape assessments.
“We’re in this for the long term, and I have every confidence that we can continue to develop in what will remain a thriving Cheshire rural business environment.”
The CLA Rural Business County League Table is designed to give a snapshot picture of the environment for rural businesses in each county in England. It is not intended to provide a comprehensive analysis, but to present an indication of the challenges faced by rural business. The datasets selected give an overall picture of the environment that can be influenced, which relate to most types of rural business and for which there is reliable data available at a local authority or county level to enable comparison.