23 November 2000
Rural Paper ‘to relax planning rules’

By FWi staff

THE government plans to remove restrictions preventing developments on prime agricultural land as part of its Rural White Paper, it is reported.

Farmers will find it easier to get planning permission to build on farmland or sell it to developers, claim two of Britains daily papers.

The controversial move will end the central agricultural policy that the primary role of the countryside is to feed the nation, says The Daily Telegraph.

Local authorities will be given full responsibility for assessing proposals, ending the special status of agriculture in the planning system, it adds.

The White Paper stresses that the government believes that planning rules must be relaxed so farmers can more easily supplement their incomes.

The Daily Mail, which also reports the story, says the move could mean “multi-million pound windfalls” for farmers the edge of expanding towns,

The National Farmers Union has said that the blue-print for the countryside document should “breathe life back into Britains rural communities”.

NFU President Ben Gill believes it is vital that the key role of farming is acknowledged in delivering the Governments vision for the countryside.

He wants the governments pledge to work in partnership with farmers to be translated into practical measures that will help put the industry back in profit.

“It is hugely important that the White Paper unlocks the enormous potential of rural areas and especially farmers ability to innovate and compete.”

But Opposition agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo said: “Removing [the veto] is a clear sign that Labour does not care whether farming survives or not.”

The Council for the Protection of Rural England believes that boosting farming should be based on diversification rather than relaxing planning rules.

Alastair Rutherford, head of rural policy at the charity which boasts the Queen as its Patron, has campaigned long and hard to restrict rural developments.

“Claims that the planning system is getting in the way are unfounded and risk undermining farmings most enduring asset – the quality of the countryside.”