A new CLA report is urging politicians to give rural businesses in the eastern region the same opportunities as their urban counterparts so they can reach their full economic potential.
‘Standing Up for Rural Businesses’ was presented by CLA President Ross Murray to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business in the House of Commons on Wednesday (January 20).
The report demonstrates the vital contribution that rural businesses make to the countryside and to the wider economy, while highlighting four key priorities for rural areas relating to the current political agenda.
CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood said: “The countryside is buzzing with economic potential, but too often the 646,000 rural businesses in England and Wales are overlooked. We are the Cinderella of the UK economy.
“The CLA believes that successful rural businesses – from food, farming and forestry to tourism, leisure and retail – are the heartbeat that sustains our rural communities. That belief drives our commitment to standing up for rural business.
“Our vision is that a person setting up or growing a rural business in the eastern region should have the same opportunities as anyone seeking to do so in our towns and cities.
“Ensuring rural businesses are able to meet their potential requires proactive investment, a proportionate regulatory framework and careful economic policy. It requires Government at all levels to include rural business in decision making.
“That is why we are taking these messages to politicians in Westminster and asking them to come and meet with rural business owners not just in the eastern region, but up and down the entire country.”
CLA President Ross Murray said: “Our ambition for our rural areas is no different to the rest of the economy. We want to see investment unlocked, to achieve greater productivity driving growth, the creation of jobs and an improved standard of living across our rural communities.
“However, the opportunities are different and we need specific solutions in four priority areas.
“Digital connectivity - In rural areas, nearly half of all premises are connected by lines that are unable to receive speeds higher than 10Mbps. Communities taking the initiative to invest in their own connections should be empowered with access to match funding or other incentives, rather than penalised.
“The planning system - Almost half of the applications made to convert redundant farm buildings in England into much-needed rural homes, are being refused. We have reached the point that where a local planning authority has not yet delivered a Local Plan, they must be forced to do so.
“Rural housing - Rural businesses have a crucial role to play in tackling the housing crisis in the countryside. It is more important than ever to unlock the potential of private investment for housing delivery, along with a more positive approach to planning.
“Devolution - Devolution deals must not ignore the potential for growth within the rural economy, nor the needs of rural businesses and communities.”