12 government plans to boost farming and rural productivity

George Osborne’s major productivity push contains changes that could have a big impact on farming and rural areas.

The chancellor has called the UK’s sluggish improvement “the challenge of our time” as he presented a package of measures on Friday (10 July).

British farm efficiency has risen by just 1.4% a year since the 1960s and this year’s Oxford Farming Conference report called for the industry to catch up with more productive countries.

See also: UK farming must up its game

From the 80-page document, these were the new policies that could affect food producers. Most focused on planning and housing – rather than agriculture.

  1. Plans to speed up the compulsory purchase of land regime will be presented in the autumn. The NFU has been lobbying for an overhaul of the system to make it fairer, especially for those affected by the high speed rail HS2 route.
  2. Communities could be able to allocate land for developments containing starter homes. This would be the first goal in a 10-point plan for rural productivity.
  3. Towns and districts in rural areas could be able to bid to become enterprise zones, as urban areas have been able to.
  4. The threshold for the size or number of agricultural buildings that can be converted into homes will be reviewed. This aims to boost the number new houses in rural areas.
  5. Permitted development rights will be extended to taller mobile masts. The government has called for people to give their opinions on the plans, which aim to improve mobile phone connectivity.
  6. The government has stressed again its ambition to give 95% of the UK superfast broadband access by 2017. It says this will be achieved “on time and on budget”.
  7. The Annual Investment Allowance will be set at £200,000 permanently from next year. Announced in last week’s budget, the government says it will help businesses plan medium- and longer-term investment.
  8. A “Business Tax Roadmap” will be published by April 2016. This will set out plans on rates for the rest of the parliament. Agricultural exemptions may come under scrutiny but this will mainly hit non-farming enterprises.
  9. A long-term National Infrastructure Plan will be created, which will include flood defences, water and waste. There will be annual updates on progress.
  10. Some colleges will be invited to become prestigious “Institutes of Technology”, offering higher levels of post-16 professional and technical training. It’s not clear whether these would cover land-based or agricultural skills.
  11. Efforts to cut “red tape” will go further still. In the last parliament, the government claims it cut the burden of regulation by £2.2bn a year. It aims to find another £10bn of benefit by scrapping rules.
  12. The government will keep pushing for free trade deals either under negotiation or showing potential. These include the controversial Europe and US partnership, TTIP.

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