How new government can unleash the full potential of the rural economy

CLA issues Labour with ambitious programme to help power growth
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The document is designed to help the new government power up the rural economy.

Labour has been handed an ambitious ‘programme for government’ to help it power growth in the rural economy, covering everything from food production to the planning system.

Compiled by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the document is designed to explore how the Labour Government’s manifesto, published ahead of the general election, can be implemented in a way that supports a strong rural economy, an improving environment and a stable system of food production.

Each chapter focuses on a promise made by the Labour Party during the election period, offering detailed policy analysis and concrete proposals that will help ministers, officials and parliamentarians deliver for the country.

CLA President Victoria Vyvyan said: “We are ambitious for the countryside and want to see businesses flourish, good jobs created and communities strengthened. So too do we want to fight climate change, reverse biodiversity decline and provide quality access for the general public.

“There are many Labour policies with which we agree – there are some that we believe need to be revisited. We hope, however, that this document will help deliver a new era of government-industry cooperation that will, finally, unlock the potential of the rural economy.

“The rural economy is 16% less productive than the national average. If you close that gap, up to £43bn could be added to the Gross Value Added (GVA) of England alone.”

There are many barriers in place that prevent rural economic growth, but by implementing the ideas contained within this document, many of those barriers will be removed – and often through simple policy change rather than new investment.

CLA President Victoria Vyvyan

Key recommendations

The document covers topics including cross-government working, farming and food security, planning and housing, access, rural crime and energy. Key recommendations include:

  • In order to ensure successful cross-government collaboration on the rural economy, the CLA recommends the creation of a ministerial-led, cross-departmental working group to identify and remove the barriers to economic growth in the countryside.
  • Commit to the continued rollout of the Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes, providing a budget of £4bn to adequately fund the agricultural transition in England, and £1bn in Wales.
  • To further increase British food security in a manner that protects businesses, the environment and livestock, the CLA recommends investing a minimum of £400m per year in England in productivity growth schemes, as well as maintaining Agricultural Property Relief and Business Property Relief.
  • Fund a new planning officer in every local planning authority and provide training on rural issues and agricultural matters including Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG).
  • Ringfence planning application fees to finance improvements to the planning system.
  • To ensure sustainable rural housebuilding where it is needed, while supporting rural home owners and tenants, the CLA recommends introducing a ‘planning passport’ for rural exception sites in national policy to develop small sites in a large number of villages.
  • Provide sufficient funds for appropriate access infrastructure, and develop a capital grants scheme to finance green social prescribing projects.
  • Invest in data standards and specialist rural training to frontline police call handlers, officers and volunteers, to equip them to identify and record cases of rural crime correctly.
  • Place a statutory requirement on Ofgem and network operators to include rural needs and proportionate investment in rural grid infrastructure planning.
  • Pay landowners to store floodwater on their land through long-term contracts that build on existing ELM schemes.

Rural Powerhouse

CLA guidance on how the new UK Government can reduce the productivity gap between urban and rural areas