CLA President tells Parliamentary Committee how planning is barrier to growth in the countryside

24 October 2013

CLA President Harry Cotterell has told the Growth and Infrastructure Bill Committee that rural business owners want a planning system that is less costly and bureaucratic to encourage growth in the countryside.

Giving his oral evidence to the Committee yesterday (13 November), the CLA President said he was very much in favour of the Bill and keen on the emphasis on planning and growth. 

He said: "It isalmost impossible to expand, grow or start up a new business in rural areas without getting involved with planning. The National Planning Policy Framework will greatly improve the planning environment for small rural businesses and we are very much in favour of the presumption for sustainable development."

Mr Cotterell explained the problems that CLA membersencounter most are the bureaucracy and size and scale of the planning system which can put off some small-scale rural developers from making an application. He also welcomed the Bill's amendment to reduce the amount of information required to bring developments forward.

He said: "A lot of the information is not really necessary for a very small development or small proposal. There is a considerable number of CLA members who live on the top of a hill who have required flood risk assessments, which is plainly ridiculous but very rarely costs less than £1,000.

"Users of the system have found that, apart from the bureaucracy and cost, quality has diminished over the years."

The CLA President told the Committee that the current position on broadband is a huge barrier to delivering developments.

He said: "You will never get an office rented if you do not have broadband. It is probably the biggest infrastructure issue in rural areas for conversion – that, and business rates on empty property, which is stopping speculative development."

He said the CLA had welcomed the Government's confirmation of new permitted development rights for non-contentious conversion of agricultural buildings. He said this was recognition that a lot of development in rural areas is "virtually of no significance to the wider population, beyond what is going on in a farmyard".