A planning system designed for the rural economy

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has published a policy paper on how to enhance beneficial economic growth in rural areas through simplifying the planning system in England.

Rural Powerhouse: a planning system designed for the rural economy’ aims to inform decision-making ahead of forthcoming government policy papers. The CLA, which represents 28,000 rural business in England and Wales, has identified three key challenges which need to be overcome to get the rural economy moving again: responding to the community needs, levelling up the economy and recovering from the economic impact of Covid-19. A reformed planning system, which was needed even before the global pandemic, could help address all three.

A restrictive and inefficient planning system is harming the potential of the economy in rural areas. It leads to wasted expenditure and unrealistic demands, outdated perceptions of the economy in rural areas, and decision-making that seems to fly in the face of rural interests. Putting this right is one of the key objectives of the CLA’s Rural Powerhouse Campaign to boost productivity in rural areas.

Major economic and technological trends have provided new incentives to invest in rural areas. At the same time, more people are seeking a better life in the countryside - something which Covid-19 has only increased.

This could not only increase the population of rural areas, but also bring with it a wealth of experience and expertise, human and social capital. Businesses in rural areas are seeking to capitalise on this growing trend, but they must have a planning system to be able to do so.

If implemented, the solutions in our report will encourage rural businesses to consider new investment, encourage farm diversification, improve job opportunities and improve the interconnectedness of rural and urban supply chains.

The paper makes a series of short-term and long-term recommendations to adapt the planning system to respond to the current and future needs and opportunities of the rural economy. These include:

Short-term actions:

  • Avoid wasted expenditure - reduce the burden of supporting a planning application with costly surveys that can be nugatory.
  • Exempt all new farm buildings from the community infrastructure levy.
  • Progress heritage reforms - approve a package of reforms drawn up by the heritage sector.
  • Open up the local plan to a more segmented approach so that, for example, economic development can forge ahead as soon as that part of the local plan has been agreed.
  • Make rural communities fit for the future - local authorities must factor current and emerging tech development into sustainability assessments.
  • Introduce a national policy for roadside barn conversions.
  • Resource the planning system so that it is fit for purpose.

Long-term actions:

  • Conduct a comprehensive review of Green Belt planning policy.
  • Ensure land value capture delivers a competitive return to a willing seller.
  • Improve the minerals planning policy.

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