The Budget: major milestones on compulsory purchase and rural broadband, says CLA

18 March 2015

The CLA has responded to the announcements about compulsory purchase reform and delivery of broadband to rural areas made in today’s Budget speech.

CLA Deputy President Ross Murray said: “This has been a good budget for the rural economy, with important announcements on rural broadband and reform of the compulsory purchase system which will be welcomed by many businesses and people in the countryside.”

On compulsory purchase reform

The Chancellor announced a consultation on reforms for the system of compulsory purchase of property and land for major infrastructure schemes:

Mr Murray said:“Countless families and businesses on the route of HS2 and other infrastructure schemes are currently facing terrible uncertainty and years of business stagnation because of unfairness in the current compulsory purchase system. The announcements in today’s Budget mark a milestone in our long-running campaign for a fairer compulsory purchase system, delivering consultation on important solutions that the CLA has been calling on Government to introduce.

“Earlier payment of compensation to the owners of property or land being taken would enable buildings to be replaced before the current ones are lost – previously rural firms have been facing months or even years without buildings which are critical to their operations, such as silage storage or milking facilities. We are also pleased that the double-standards in interest arrangements that we have seen with HS2 Ltd have been addressed.

“In addition, purchasing authorities – whether that is a local council or a delivery organisation such as HS2 Ltd – would need to take greater account of business disruption when proposing compensation. This flexibility would enable a smoother and faster agreement for all involved and it will reduce wastage of taxpayer funds through protracted appeal processes.

“These are important changes which would make a real difference to the lives of people affected by compulsory purchase. However they are just a few of a raft of updates that are needed to bring the out-dated compulsory purchase system into the twenty first century, and the CLA will continue to campaign for a fairer approach.”

On delivery of rural broadband

The Chancellor announced the Government will look at a new Universal Service Obligation (USO) to support the delivery of broadband in rural areas.

Mr Murray said: “For too long, thousands of businesses in the countryside have been held back by a lack of access to fast, reliable broadband while their urban counterparts have benefited from digital Britain. The CLA has been calling for many years for Government to implement a Universal Service Obligation (USO) on broadband and we are delighted that this has been included in today’s Budget announcements.

“A USO on broadband will ensure faster and more reliable connection for properties in rural areas, providing an important legal guarantee for consumers. It is vital that Government implements this as soon as possible to support a thriving rural economy.

“While we welcome the Government’s intention to look at installing superfast capable satellite services, we are disappointed that there is no concrete plan for delivery set out. This means there will be no immediate relief for the unconnected rural firms struggling to run a modern business in the countryside. We want to see a voucher scheme to offer those living and working in the countryside a grant to buy alternative solutions – the quickest, fairest and most cost-effective solution.”