Homes plea for greenbelt areas
By FW reporters
GREENBELT land should be developed to provide rural communities with jobs and affordable housing, rural businesses and landowners have claimed.
The Country Land and Business Association said greenbelt planning restrictions were stifling Britains countryside.
The warning came in the same week the Countryside Agencys latest State of the Countryside report identified the lack of affordable housing as the most pressing problem in the countryside.
The report, published on Tuesday (May 28), found rural homes were much less affordable than in urban areas in seven out of eight English regions.
Mortgage costs in rural areas were estimated to be at least 10-12% higher than in urban areas, except in the south-east (6%) and eastern England where there was no difference.
Furthermore, rural wage rates were on average 12% lower than those in urban areas mainly due to the number of people working in agriculture and service industries.
CLA president Edward Greenwell told a conference in London on Monday (May 27) that the governments greenbelt policy had for too long been seen in terms of what it could do for urban areas and this was having a detrimental effect on rural businesses and communities.
Sir Edward said he was not calling for the abandonment of the greenbelt but was concerned about the lack of a sustainable rural economy in some areas.
"It is possible to achieve a thriving rural economy within a well-managed countryside and that some sustainable and sympathetic development in the greenbelt is part of the solution, not the problem."
The CLA believes a small but suitable mix of affordable housing is needed as well as profitable farming, diversification and alternative land and property uses.
The Countryside Agencys report concluded that rural Britain was relatively stable despite the profound impacts of last years outbreak of foot-and-mouth. It noted that agricultural firms still made up over 15% of rural businesses.
But it said the farming sector was still under severe structural and financial pressures and the outlook was difficult to predict. *