26 May 2000
Talks start on boosting diversification

By Isabel Davies

THE Council for the Protection of Rural England has rejected claims that the planning system is hampering attempts by farmers to diversify.

A report published by charity on Friday (26 May) claims that the vast majority of planning applications for agricultural developments are approved.

The report, Farm Diversification: Planning for Success says the real reasons farmers do not diversify is because they havent got the resources.

It was released to coincide with government talks about how planning policies should be overhauled in a bid to encourage more diversification.

The key to successful farm diversification lies with sound business planning rather than relaxing planning rules, claims the report.

Alastair Rutherford, CPRE head of policy, denied that planning was a constraint, saying rules brought business benefits and protected the rural areas.

“The governments priority should not be to encourage more diversification per se but to develop an integrated farm and rural business strategy.”

Such a move would ensure more schemes succeed that bring lasting benefits to farms and the wider countryside, Mr Rutherford added.

Planning minister Nick Raynsford is hosting a seminar in London to examine the relationship between land use, planning and farm diversification.

The meeting fulfils a government promise to examine policies that farmers claim restrict their ability to move into non-farming activities.

Earlier, agriculture minister Nick Brown said it was nonsense to promote diversification and then find it thwarted by over-restrictive planning guidance.