A fresh approach to local planning restrictions is needed to help revive declining rural communities, says David Drew, MP for Stroud and chairman of the Rural Group of Labour MPs.

Addressing a meeting of the Labour Party Rural Revival group in Brighton last Sunday, Mr Drew said the existing rules were daft.

“Nothing frustrates me more than when a farmer is trying to do something new with his buildings and the planning committee says, it’s a barn, it has to stay a barn’.”

Some of the most innovative schemes fell because of bickering among planners.

“Villages are dying because people on the outside won’t let people get on with it.”

Minister for rural affairs Jim Knight agreed.

“The planning system needs to work for us.”

But the government also needed to work harder on building local opportunities for people to help themselves.

“Rural England is not a place where time stands still,” he said.

The reality was that increasing demands were being made of the countryside, especially with the inflow of people from the towns.

Yet many of its traditional industries were in decline and there were areas of real social disadvantage.

Mr Knight said there was a need to sell rural England better as a location for inward investment.

It offered relatively cheap labour and, where planning permission could be attained, good value buildings.