Thursday, 20 August 2015 05:33

Defra unveils Rural Productivity Plan

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Defra unveils Rural Productivity Plan

RURAL communities will be allowed to build starter homes for local residents under plans set out in the government's first ever Rural Productivity Plan.

The plan sets out measures to boost the rural economy by investing in education and skills, increasing wages, improving infrastructure and connectivity, and simplifying planning laws for rural businesses and communities.

The full Rural Productivity Plan, which was published on Thursday (20 August), can be downloaded here.

Measures include amending planning rules to allow starter homes to be built on Rural Exception Sites for the first time.

The government says this will allow local areas to allocate more sites for starter homes specifically for people who already live in the area, or have an existing local family or employment connection.

Chancellor George Osborne said:  "For too long the British economy has been reliant on businesses based in our cities and towns.

"We want to create a One Nation economy that taps into the potential of all parts of our country.

"That means setting the right conditions for rural communities and businesses to thrive, investing in education and skills, improving rural infrastructure, and allowing rural villages to thrive and grow."

Other measures include working with private sector providers to assess alternative solutions to deliver broadband further into rural areas.
The government says it walso wants to improving rural transport connections by feeding the views of rural stakeholders into the second Road Investment Strategy for 2020 to 2025.

It wants to ensure that schools and colleges which are currently underperforming or coasting are entering into collaborative arrangements and formal partnerships to raise standards.

The government says it also wants to improve transport connections for businesses and passengers in local areas with 15 new routes on its Regional Air Connectivity funding shortlist.

Together these steps will boost productivity and ensure the countryside becomes an even more attractive place for people to live, work, start a business and bring up a family, it added.

Defra secretary Liz Truss said rural areas could be generating billions more for the UK and providing many thousands of new jobs.

"This plan will make that a reality, unleashing the full potential of our countryside to create a true One Nation economy.

"We're connecting the countryside to make it just as simple to run a business from Cornwall as it is in Camden. But it's not just about transport and technology.

Our plan will help us create thriving towns and villages where generations of families can open and expand their businesses, buy a home and educate their children at first class schools."

The 10-point plan pledges that the government will deliver:

* Strong conditions for rural business growth – cutting red tape, including 20,000 farm inspections to be cut this Parliament, and cuts to corporation tax.

* Better mobile coverage – ensuring 98% indoor coverage for 4G by 2017.

* Modern transport connections – improving connectivity of rural areas including through the £15bn Road Investment Strategy and the £38bn rail investment programme.

* Access to Enterprise Zones in rural areas – giving 100% business rate discounts on businesses located within them, saving each company up to £275,000 over five years.

* High-quality education – raising standards through fairer funding and working with underperforming schools.

* Expanded apprenticeships in rural areas – tripling the number of food and farming apprenticeships from 6,000 to 18,000.

* Extensive, fast and reliable broadband – making superfast broadband available for 95% of UK premises by 2017 and working with providers to address challenges reaching the final 5%.

* Improved planning and better regulation for businesses – supporting delivery of Starter Homes on rural exception sites and reviewing the planning constraints affecting rural areas.

* More devolution of powers – calling on local areas to propose what further powers they would like to see handed to them.

* Housing for future generations – increasing the availability of housing in rural areas to ensure our villages thrive.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: "We're determined to ensure anyone who works hard and aspires to own their own home has the opportunity to do so – whether they live in cities, towns or rural communities.

"But all too often young people find themselves exiled from the place they grew up as they are forced to move away to find a home of their own.

"That's why we're putting power directly in the hands of rural councils to give the go-ahead for new Starter Homes in their area so local young first-time buyers can continue to be a vital part of their communities."

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