Planning policy changes gets mixed response from farming industry

A government policy to streamline the planning process in England has prompted a mixed reaction from farm industry leaders.

At 50 pages the government’s National Planning Policy Framework, published on Tuesday 27 March, was a lightweight version of the original 1,300-page document.

The reduction was in response to a call to cut red tape.

For rural businesses the main points were:

  • Boost sustainable growth of rural businesses with well-designed building conversions and developments.
  • Support the development and diversification of rural businesses.
  • Promote sustainable rural tourism which maintains the countryside’s character
  • Maintain and develop local services and community facilities.

The Country Land and Business Association hailed the framework as a long overdue boost for planning in rural areas that would kick-start rural innovation.

CLA president Harry Cotterell said:

“The section on supporting a prosperous rural economy is excellent, laying the foundations for the growth of all types of business in rural areas.

“This includes conversion of existing buildings, constructing well-designed new ones, allowing new land-based businesses to get started and helping farmers to diversify.”

Mr Cotterell added that the NPPF’s “presumption in favour of sustainable development” would be a fillip to rural businesses, allowing planning applications to proceed more quickly.

But the NFU’s opinion was more circumspect. The union’s head of policy services Andrew Clark said:

“It is encouraging to see that local authorities will be expected to assess the needs of the food production industry and any barriers to investment that planning can resolve. But we are disappointed that ministers have not made this a requirement.

“Other sections appear to support a thriving and diverse rural economy but again there appear to be substantial caveats in place for it not to be entirely positive.”

Mr Clark added: “The section on protecting the natural environment reinforces the importance of taking appropriate regard to different designations. However, farmers will be surprised that the NPPF provides planning status for Nature Improvement Areas and introduces the concept of ‘stepping stones’ and ‘wildlife corridors’ as part of the countryside hierarchy.

“In addition, the ‘new opportunity for local green space to be mapped in local and neighbourhood plans with protection equivalent to green belt land’ is extremely worrying.”

The Tenants Farmers Association also expressed concern, warning that landlords could find it easier to serve farm tenants with notices to quit under new planning rules.

“Landlords could obtain planning consent for change of use more easily, without adequate restrictions, said TFA chief executive, George Dunn

“We could see an increase in the number of cases in which tenants face notices to quit without sufficient, alternative provision being made,” Mr Dunn warned.

The TFA said it was urging the government to ensure it retained an appropriate check on planning applications on tenant farms.

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