Some rural planning decisions 'taking up to 20 years and costing £1m upfront', CLA warns

The rural economy is being held back by outdated planning laws, the CLA has argued.The rural economy is being held back by outdated planning laws, the CLA has argued.
The rural economy is being held back by outdated planning laws, the CLA has argued.
Changing the “outdated” planning system to find new purposes for disused country pubs and making it easier for farmers to convert outbuildings could provide a major boost to the rural economy, a new report claims.

The Country, Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 rural businesses and landowners in England and Wales, has published new recommendations on how the Government’s levelling-up agenda can be delivered in rural areas.

It warns that opportunities to create jobs and prosperity in the countryside are being “routinely missed” and argues that closing the productivity gap between rural and urban areas could add an estimated £43bn to the economy.

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It said an “outdated planning system” is one of the reasons why rural areas are not realising their economic potential.

It recommends giving the needs of the rural economy a higher priority in the National Planning Policy Framework as well as encouraging greater use of “planning in principle” rules so that pubs which have shut can change their use more easily.

The CLA said it had examples of planning applications costing £1m to submit and being refused – as well as one taking 20 years to pass.

CLA president Mark Bridgeman said: “Time and again we hear of farmers wanting to convert disused old barns into modern workspace for local small businesses, or housing for local families, only to be held back by a dated planning system.

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“It is so hard to navigate that, at great cost, many simply give up trying to find a way to work within its restrictions and abandon development projects altogether.

“One planning application for the redevelopment of a site in a market town required £1m in upfront costs for supporting evidence, and was ultimately refused.

“Another Country Land and Business Association member spent 20 years navigating the planning system in order to convert listed farm buildings into the kind of commercial office spaces that would encourage entrepreneurs to find a home for their business in the countryside.

“Nobody wants to see the countryside concreted over, least of all us. The other extreme though is treating it as a museum.

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“Rural communities have a huge amount to offer. They are brimming with economic potential – we just need Government to see it, and work with us to deliver a meaningful and ambitious cross-departmental strategy designed to give everyone who lives and works in the countryside a fair shot.”

Call for VAT cut to return for tourism businesses

A temporary VAT cut for tourism businesses introduced to help them survive lockdown should be made permanent to help the rural economy grow, the report suggests.

VAT for tourism businesses was cut from 20 per cent to five per cent in July last year and has been moved to a new rate of 12.5 per cent until April next year. But the CLA argues that returning to the five per cent rate permanently would create jobs and help reduce holiday prices.

It said: “There is an opportunity for tourism businesses to remind the population of the beauty, convenience and lower carbon footprint of taking a holiday closer to home.”

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