Wednesday, 24 August 2016 20:50

Ministers 'failing' on planning reforms

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Ministers 'failing' on planning reforms

The government has failed to deliver a pledge to reduce planning barriers, say rural business leaders.

Rural businesses continue to beheld back by the delays, inefficiencies and inflexibilities of the planning system, said the Country Land and Business Association.

A year has past since ministers committed to the delivery of a 10-point plan for boosting productivity in rural areas, said the CLA.

A consultation on reforms followed the 10-point plan which pledged to review planning rules that were holding back communities, jobs and growth.

But the CLA said rural communities had seen no outcomes and inaction was harming all those who lived and worked in the countryside.

"Businesses across our countryside are working through tough times," said CLA President Ross Murray. "There is a bright future ahead for many but it requires investment.

"It is hard enough for businesses to take steps to invest but it can become impossible when faced with confusing, slow and obstructive planning rules."

For many rural businesses, the best opportunities lay in diversification and developing alternative income streams such as housing, leisure or retail, said Mr Murray.

"That is why the Rural Planning Review announced a year ago was so important.

We, along with many others, engaged constructively with the review laying out a number of simple improvements that would have an immediate beneficial effect.

"Ministers must now act. Every day of further delay is damaging given the urgent need to boost investment and growth across the rural economy."

Reforms proposed by the CLA include expanding the scope of successful permitted development rights to make it easier and more certain for farmers to invest in their businesses.

This included investment in farm shops, polytunnels, on-farm reservoirs, new agricultural buildings or the conversion of redundant rural buildings into homes.

Significant numbers of moribund buildings had been brought back into use, said the CLA, but half of all applications were still being refused.

Mr Murray also expressed disappointment at the failure to deliver a fast track planning certification process – also known as "Planning-in-Principle" – that was promised in the plan.

He said: "This innovation would have made a big difference in terms of giving businesses vital confidence that they would secure planning approval before making substantial investments.

"The change imposed on the government by the House of Lords, limiting this new right to housing developments only, is a major setback.

"We urge ministers to reintroduce the measure at the first opportunity in this Parliament."

A government spokesman said ministers were determined to help rural economies thrive.

The government was devolving more powers, improving mobile and broadband coverage and reducing red tape for rural businesses.

It had also extended permitted development rights and issued guidance to make it easier to convert underused buildings into other businesses and much needed homes.

This has already led to an increase in approvals of around two thirds for housing.

Further details of the review would be published soon, said the spokesman.

People in this conversation

  • Guest (John Reynolds)

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    Certainly planning rules need to be relaxed for businesses, but don't let the government think you mean on all planning fronts. The "demand" for ever more housing needs to directed elsewhere than the rural southeast. Our town is suffering from and almost 100% increase in dwellings all at once! Many other places I go through in Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire have placards pleading not to be spoiled.

  • Guest (C.P.Hassall)

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    It's the CLA again -- what can we expect? Just because they own the land doesn't give them a free reign to exploit it for short-term profit at the expense of the future of the countryside and eventually of us all.
    The Planning system, built up over half a century and more, has served us well but under current development pressures it needs strengthening, not emasculating for the sake of quick profits.

    from Bideford, UK
  • Guest (Brian Barber)

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    Well said C P Hassall. What is never mentioned is the infrastructure. We have had 1000 houses built in our small village over the past 10 years and NO extra facilities. They closed our library (which is now up and running under volunteers), the Schools are full and there is thoughts to reduce the catchment area, the water/sewage is also the last thing to be taken into account. They stopped funding summer plays scheme, closed the Youth Club, luckily the Parish councils has stepped in.

  • Guest (C.P.Hassall)

    In reply to: Guest (Brian Barber) Report

    Thankyou, Guest Brian Barber. You see this single article has produced three responses saying much the same thing from three diferent parts of the country about the disastrous effect government policy is having on our countryside. We are not alone, but we all consider our own locality first, and then we are put down as "Nimbys" and the developers ignore us. We need a decent political party that people can vote for - - - that's the only way development can be brought back under control.

    from Bideford, UK

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