Housing, planning and agricultural transition dominate discussions on MP farm visits

The CLA is busy using the summer recess to engage with political figures of all colours. In this blog Mike Sims gives an overview of some of the visits
Lockinge tour
Didcot and Wantage Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Olly Glover (second from right) on a farm visit organised by the CLA.

With parliament in summer recess, you might expect the CLA’s work with politicians and officials to slow down over August.

But the opposite has been true in recent weeks. With many commentators, and MPs, expecting a General Election in either May or October next year, the CLA South East team has been busy engaging with current MPs as well as parliamentary candidates of all colours to ensure rural issues are high on their agendas.

We have been raising topics and themes which matter the most to members, during a series of visits. The team has been inviting MPs and candidates to meet CLA members on farms and estates across the South East to see first-hand how modern landowners are adapting to challenges and opportunities they face, while feeding the nation, looking after the environment and supporting the rural economy.

Many of the issues raised dovetail with the CLA’s Rural Powerhouse campaign, which seeks to unleash the potential of the rural economy. One topic coming up again and again is rural housing, and CLA staff have been highlighting our support for building a small number of homes in a large number of places. Nobody wants to see the countryside concreted over, but equally it is not a museum and must be allowed to evolve and grow to keep villages and communities sustainable.

The inadequacies of the planning system have also reared their head during a number of the visits and meetings. Regardless of local authority area, members have reported frustrations with planning departments being under-resourced and generally not fit for purpose. Again, the Rural Powerhouse campaign sets out how planning needs to be properly designed for the rural economy.

CLA advice team here to help

Agricultural transition rounds off the top three topics raised. Members have spoken of their frustrations with the lack of clarity from Defra over its various schemes, and the confusion and complexity around applying.

If you need help, please don’t forget the CLA’s advice team is here for you – call 01264 358195 or email southeast@cla.org.uk. The government’s recent trade deals were also a source of concern for several livestock farmers, leading to robust discussions around animal welfare, environmental impacts and food security.

With a General Election looming, the CLA will continue to engage with candidates of all parties to ensure they have an understanding of rural issues which affect members.

Farmers, landowners and rural businesses are the backbone of many constituencies, and with a considerable number of seats up for grabs (especially those with relatively small majorities) the rural vote is all to play for.

Sally-Ann Hart MP (centre) meeting with the CLA
Sally-Ann Hart MP (centre) meeting with CLA staff and members in her Hastings and Rye constituency, where she has a 4,000 majority.
More about the Rural Powerhouse

The rural economy is 18% less productive than the national average. By closing this productivity gap, we could add £43bn to the national GDP.

The CLA's Rural Powerhouse campaign seeks to unleash the potential of the rural economy, creating skilled jobs and stronger communities in the process.

Read more.

How you can help

Please consider hosting an MP or parliamentary candidate on your farm or estate.

Email mike.sims@cla.org.uk for more information.

Key contact:

Mike Sims Senior Communications Manager (national & south east)