State opening of Parliament

Queen's speech unveils planning, connectivity and environment bills
Houses of Parliament

The government has set out its priorities for the coming year as the UK recovers from the Coronavirus crisis.

During the annual State Opening of Parliament, the Queen unveiled the government's plans in her first major public engagement since the death of Prince Philip - a passionate supporter of rural Britain.

The following bills were announced in the Queen’s Speech:

  • A long-awaited Planning Bill will introduce changes to the planning system in England, including a controversial zoning system
  • A Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill will extend 5G mobile coverage and introduce new safety standards for digital devices
  • The Environment Bill, whose passage through Parliament has been repeatedly delayed, will introduce new post-Brexit rules on protecting nature

The CLA, as part of its Rural Powerhouse campaign, has been pushing for a greater focus on growing the rural economy through planning reform and improved digital connectivity.

For too long, the countryside has been treated like a museum, held back by an outdated planning system that has frustrated economic growth

CLA President Mark Bridgeman

President of the CLA Mark Bridgeman said:

“We welcome government’s recognition of the need to modernise the planning system – but they must ensure that reforms apply as much to the countryside as they do urban environments.

“For too long, the countryside has been treated like a museum, held back by an outdated system that has frustrated economic growth. Rural poverty will only be eased and opportunity only created if we allow landowners to invest in their communities. We regularly hear of farmers wanting to convert farm buildings into new modern offices, or build more homes for local people, only to be held back by an antiquated planning system.

“If this system is simplified, twinned with other measures such as fulfilling their pledge to spend £5bn on the roll-out of gigabit capable broadband, then the vast potential of the rural economy might finally be unleashed.”

On environmental standards, Mr Bridgeman added:

“Farming businesses want to deliver positive environmental benefits to the land they manage, helping to reverse biodiversity decline and mitigate climate change as well as feed the nation. Much of this is reliant on a well-structured Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, but more clarity is needed to allow these businesses to plan ahead. Otherwise, changes in legislation could have damaging consequences for the sector.”