Rural communities across the south west will be devastated unless the regional government changes its proposed planning policy guidance, warns the Country Land and Business Association.

The south west’s Regional Spatial Strategy, which is out to consultation until 30 August, will form the planning blueprint for the region for the next 20 years.

Alarmingly, only two pages of the 600 page document cover rural affairs.

Sarah Slade, the CLA’s regional surveyor, told a meeting at the Royal Cornwall Show that the strategy document was “truly frightening stuff”.

The fundamental issue with regard to rural development was that the strategy concentrated on the need for businesses to be accessible – meaning, in towns – and that it defined ‘rural’ as any community with less than 10,000 people, explained Mrs Slade.

“It is ludicrous – small towns are not rural.

But if they are defined as such it becomes much easier for local government to supposedly be addressing ‘rural’ needs,” she added.

The strategy aimed for all development to be within towns, preventing rural areas from moving forward, commented the CLA’s south west director, John Mortimer.

“That is not sustainable.

This really is the death knell of our rural communities – the south west’s population will grow by 10% over the next 10 years and rural communities have to be allowed to participate in that.”

Kathy Green, a local independent surveyor, insisted that local businesses and local housing were essential to attract younger people to villages, which were aging at an unsustainable rate.

“You need a balance of ages in a community, otherwise services will disappear.

Directing money to towns is both short sighted and, in the longer term, counter productive.

We should be promoting our villages as places to work and to live.”

Those wishing to reply to the consultation should contact the Regional Assembly on 01179 001 814 or visit southwest-ra.gov.uk and click on “planning-RSS”.

olivia.cooper@rbi.co.uk