Hampshire’s rural businesses could look forward to a much better new year, if national and local government took action to solve some key issues for the countryside, says CLA Hampshire branch chairman David Butler.
David Butler, who has an arable farm near Winchester, says his top five new year resolutions for Government would make a significant difference to many of the landowners, farmers and rural businesses represented by the CLA in Hampshire.
- Poor broadband: it is almost impossible to run a successful business without good broadband speeds. This is the single most important factor holding back rural business development. Hampshire County Council has launched a £1million match funding scheme to help communities that are not expected to be covered by the Hampshire Superfast Broadband programme. This may help some of those affected.
- Poor mobile connections: only 18% of people can access 4G coverage in their rural homes and businesses compared to 64% in urban areas, according to a recent report by the telecoms regulator Ofcom. It’s time to look again at how the industry is being held to account for its performance on rural coverage.
- We need Government support that encourages investment, innovation and growth of the rural economy, with clear guidance on what is required. Equally important, we do not want the burden of too much red tape.
- Affordable rural housing: this is an important driver for rural growth and a challenge which rural landowners can help address, if we are given the right support and encouragement, particularly from local authorities and the planning system.
- Address the problem of fly tipping which is turning many areas of our countryside into an eyesore: prosecutions are few, the deterrents ineffective and the burdens and costs are on landowners. The scrap metal problems were sorted out – the same needs to be done for fly tipping.
David Butler adds: “There is much we can do as a sector to prepare for the challenges and opportunities ahead, especially as we get closer to Brexit, but Government also needs to play its part and provide rural businesses with the tools and support they need to prosper.”