The Coalition Government’s proposed Localism Bill, which received its Second Reading this week, must do more to help deliver economic growth in rural communities, says the CLA.
The Association supports the Bill’s aim to give local people a greater say in decisions that affect them, but says amendments need to be made to help sustain the rural economy - otherwise the proposed reform of the planning system risks actually hindering growth.
The CLA says that for rural areas to benefit, amendments should include:
· A presumption in favour of sustainable development to help provide certainty for investors and encourage small-scale economic activity in rural areas
· An extension of the power of local authorities to grant reliefs to businesses in rural areas because scrapping the current exemption and replacing it with powers to grant relief only to charitable or not-for-profit enterprises, will put the rural economy at a considerable disadvantage.
· A clear definition of an ‘asset of community value’ – the Bill as it is currently drafted could become a means for the authority to compulsorily acquire a privately owned asset considered to be of value to the community without the checks and balances of the existing compulsory purchase process.
CLA South West Director, John Mortimer, said: "I think everyone now accepts that we need the opportunity to trade ourselves out of recession but this whole localism agenda will require people to step up and become involved in the planning process – we can no longer rely on other to do it for us.
“Rural businesses have the will, but they need confidence that their activities will be encouraged. If the Localism Bill does not enable the conditions for growth, businesses will stall or simply relocate and take the wealth and jobs they have created with them.
“Rural communities must recognise that they might have to accept - and even encourage - change in the form of appropriate development in order to secure longer term benefits.”