Unlock rural economy, say planners

PLANNING experts have called on the government to unlock the potential of the rural economy.

The Vision for the Rural Economy policy statement was published by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA).

Meeting the needs of many rural people for affordable homes, well-paid jobs, and access to services was a familiar problem, it said.

The national policy response was also familiar, with a rhetoric in favour of a 'living, working countryside. But the delivery of this policy had largely failed.

The full document can be downloaded by clicking here.

Rural England was facing huge demographic, economic and environmental challenges, said the TCPA.

Long-term needs and prospects had to be addressed, it said. The benefits that high quality new communities could bring to rural areas should be recognised.

In the right place, garden cities or new market towns could provide affordable housing, create jobs and promote sustainable lifestyles and development.

Such developments were the exact oipposite of urban sprawl and "bolt-on" estates, said Trevor Cherrett, TCPA policy council member.

"New communities offer a powerful opportunity to deliver much needed housing for our rural areas in a holistic and comprehensively planned way.

They also presented significant opportunities to embed community governance structures, create jobs, and promote low-carbon sustainable living.

A comprehensive approach was needed to deliver more and better affordable housing while maintaining and enhancing our existing homes and places.

Lead author of the policy statement, Mr Cherrett said the TCPA had set out its rural vision when the planning system itself faced a radical transformation.

There was an emphasis on localism alongside the removal of the strategic tier.

Rural communities, with their strong traditions and experience of community-led initiatives, had much to gain from localism.

But it must be implemented in a constructive, inclusive and practicable way.

"Indeed, [rural communities] are in a position to lead the way in showing how a 'bottom-up' approach can work."

But some demographic, social, economic and environmental challenges afacing rural areas could not be resolved by local communities alone.

The TCPA was concerned about these wider challenges and how they can be addressed, Mr Cherrett said.

The government should take the longer view when revising the National Planning Policy Framework, he added.


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