Call to amend infrastructure bill

THE countryside could be disadvantaged unless the government amends its Growth and Infrastructure Bill, rural business leaders have warned.

The Country Land and Business Association said it wanted the bill amended to rural-proof economic development and ensure the long-term sustainability of the countryside.

The association said it had briefed the House of Lords Growth and Infrastructure Bill Committee ahead of a debate calling for a change to clauses related to village greens and rating valuations.

CLA president Harry Cotterell said: "We believe the Bill will aid the growth of rural businesses but there are some points which could leave rural businesses at a competitive disadvantage."

Mr Cotterell said he was pleased the government consultation has recognised the CLA's amendment to allow applicants to appeal for non determination for the non–validation of a planning application and will be seeking assurances in the Lords.

He added: A right of appeal will ensure applicants have a fairer chance of having their development approved, helping to boost the rural economy."

But Mr Cotterell said the CLA opposed the two year delay to the re-evaluation of rates for empty business properties because the last time the rates were set in 2008, the market was more buoyant.

He said: "It is vital to extend empty property relief to all vacant commercial property if the government is serious about economic enterprise and growth.

Paying business rates in the current market is a disproportionate measure and will reduce returns from current investments and discourage further investment."

Mr Cotterell also warned that changes to the registration of village greens were necessary.

He said: "The number of vexatious applications will not diminish if the final Bill does not address exactly what kind of land has the genuine characteristics of a village green, or fails to tighten the definition of what constitutes as lawful sports and pastimes.

"It is also not clear why the period of grace before a village green is prevented from being claimed has to be as long as two years."

The CLA believes this should be reduced to one year, which it says is sufficient for residents to organise an application and would help prevent delays when landowners sell land.


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