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News Report Page 7 of 16
Publication Date:-
2024-06-09
 
News reports located on this page = 2.

A General Election poll shows:- 'Planning reform' would sway 70% of rural vote

BRITAIN'S planning system is squandering thousands of pounds for rural businesses and will sway how the countryside votes in this general election, according to a new survey by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

The poll of 350 rural business owners reveals:-

• 70% either agree or strongly agree that each party's policy on planning reform will influence the way they vote, with only 8% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.

• 73% say they had been forced to abandon plans to invest because of planning problems. Of those, nearly half had wasted at least £10,000 on projects before giving up, with many (19%) reporting losses of more than £50,000.

• 85% of respondents strongly agree or strongly agree that the system has hampered the growth of their own business, with just 4% strongly disagreeing or disagreeing.

• 94% say there was a lack of knowledge on rural issues and agricultural matters within the system, and 92% feel improved knowledge would be beneficial to projects.

• 66% also believe the Green Belt restricts farm diversification projects, with 13% saying it did not.

The results follow CLA polling earlier this year revealing Labour will beat the Conservatives in the 100 most rural constituencies in England, with the Tories at risk of losing more than half their seats amidst a -25% collapse in support.

CLA President Victoria Vyvyan said:- "With the countryside's vote on a knife edge, planning reform is key to winning rural seats. So many enterprises in rural areas could grow, create jobs, help provide housing, but are being stifled by an archaic planning regime that seems almost designed to restrict our ambition. This can't afford to slip from party manifestos. Farmers and landowners are dynamic and innovative and want to help grow the rural economy, but time and again their efforts have been hampered and frustrated. Nobody wants to concrete over the countryside, least of all us, but instead of treating rural communities as museums, political parties need to support small-scale developments; adding small numbers of homes to a large number of villages, helping to provide lifelong housing for local people while also boosting the economy. For the first time in a decade rural communities feel politically homeless. The 1st party who can match our aspirations for a dynamic rural economy won't just secure significant support; they may just win the election."

Peter Hogg, farmer and rural business owner in Morpeth, commented:- "The planning system is crippling businesses like mine. We had a farmhouse I wanted to convert into a B&B to help diversify our income. But the application dragged on for over a year due to a dispute over adding a small sunroom, which should have been straightforward given it was replacing a previous extension we'd demolished. The delay meant we lost a full season and over £30,000 in revenue. And when permission was finally granted, it took just 2 weeks and £800 to build the sunroom; 4 times less than what we paid in planning costs. If businesses like mine are to succeed, government must cut the red tape that's stunting our growth and livelihoods. Beyond the financial impact, the mental toll is profound. Many perceived problems could be sorted in 20 minutes over a cup of tea."

The poll comes as the CLA, which represents nearly 27,000 farmers, landowners and rural businesses across England and Wales, publishes a blueprint setting out how the government can help unlock the full potential of the rural economy.

2 of the 6 documents, or missions, focus on housing and economic growth, and make a series of recommendations including:-

  • Introduce a:- 'planning passport' for Rural Exception Sites to increase delivery of affordable housing by splitting the planning process for these sites into 2 stages. The 1st stage would provide the applicant with planning permission in principle, giving them certainty in their investment. Only if the scheme gains this permission will further expenditure be required, thus avoiding unnecessary time and expenditure on any applications that are likely to fail.

  • Make it easier to convert agricultural buildings into homes in National Parks and National Landscapes, by expanding Class Q permitted development rights.

  • Allow businesses to create jobs and grow the economy by expanding:- "permission in principle" for rural economic development.

  • Provide £25 million to fund an extra planning officer in each local authority to ensure that planning departments are adequately equipped to deliver overdue reform to the planning system.

  • Make provisions for specific training for planning officers to better understand the rural economy and its requirements. 


Councils face more than £6bn funding gap over next 2 years

A new Local Government White Paper has been published setting out how a new relationship between central and local Government; which provides long term financial certainty and empowers Councils; is the only way for the next Government to solve the issues facing the country.

The White Paper; produced by the Local Government Association ahead of the General Election; includes:- new analysis revealing that Councils in England now face a funding gap of £6.2 billion over the next 2 years. This is being driven by rising cost and demand pressures to provide adult social care, children's services, homelessness support and home to school transport for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Such pressures are increasingly leaving Councils with less funding to provide universal local services that people rely on every day; such as:- keeping streets clean, filling potholes and tackling anti social behaviour. A recent LGA survey found two thirds of Councils have already had to make cutbacks to local neighbourhood services this year (2024/25) including waste collections, road repairs, library and leisure services; as they struggle to plug funding gaps.

The LGA is calling on all political parties to commit to a significant and sustained increase in funding for Councils in the next Spending Review, alongside multi year funding settlements for Councils and plans to reform the local Government finance system. This year saw the sixth one-year settlement in a row for Councils.

Without this, the LGA is warning that cost and demand pressures will continue to stretch Council budgets to the limit in the coming years, leaving more Councils of all political colours and types unable to deliver their legal duties for their residents and putting vital services at further risk of cutbacks.

However, the LGA said it is not just about local Government having enough money to provide services for their communities.

The White Paper calls on the next Government to urgently commission a major review of public service reform to understand how all public services can work together within their local communities, focusing on a joint approach to investing in more preventative services for people in need and reducing demands on current costly and high need services such as adult and children's social care.

Focussing on how Councils, when given the powers, can shape their local areas, the White Paper also makes clear that economic growth can only be achieved if every local economy is firing on all cylinders.

To unlock the potential of people and their communities, the LGA has set out how Councils can play a vital leading role in:- unlocking labour markets, creating jobs, plugging skills gaps and increase productivity. This includes devolving powers to run local skills and employment schemes, ending fragmented, short term growth funding pots and backing local climate action.

Other proposals in the Local Government White Paper include:-

  • Giving Councils and combined authorities the powers to build more affordable, good quality homes at scale for people in the areas where they are needed, with 5 year local housing deals for all areas of the country that want them, combining funding from multiple housing programmes into a single pot.

  • A renewed focus on prevention, including:- immediate implementation of the Hewitt report recommendation that at least 1% of NHS spend is invested into preventative services over the next 5 years, ensuring Councils can provide the right support for people at the right time.

  • Reforming adult social care, ensuring it is adequately funded, with Councils and the NHS working better together to support people in need, and a focus on prevention and recovery services, including support for the voluntary sector who are a crucial part of the adult social care system.

  • Reviewing early years education and childcare to ensure that the workforce has the right skills and training and ensuring early years entitlements are properly funded, with Councils fully resourced to deliver their statutory duties.

  • Building a stronger partnership between Councils, the NHS and Schools, backed by new powers and a separate:- "inclusion" judgement in the Ofsted School Inspection framework, that meets the needs of children and young people with SEND and enables more children to remain in mainstream Schools.

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Senior Vice Chairman of the LGA, said:- "We all rely on local Government to keep our streets clean, collect our bins, fix our potholes, build more homes, create jobs, keep children safe and support people of all ages to live fulfilling lives. However, a funding gap facing local services of more than £6 billion over the next 2 years; fuelled by rising cost and demand pressures; means a chasm will continue to grow between what people and their communities need and want from their Councils and what Councils can deliver. On 5 July 2024, the next Government will be faced with many challenges, whether it is building more affordable housing, improving care for adults and children, reducing homelessness, boosting inclusive growth or tackling climate change. Local Government's offer to the next Government is huge. Respect us, trust us and fund us. By working together as equal partners, we can meet the fundamental long-term challenges facing our communities."

 
      
 
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