Rural businesses must be included in the government’s industrial strategy if they are to fulfil their potential to unlock wealth in the countryside, says the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).
A lack of government support and infrastructure for rural businesses, coupled with Brexit uncertainty, was holding back landowners’ natural drive to innovate and invest, warned CLA president Ross Murray.
“There are great opportunities for small family businesses to boost the rural economy, particularly through new business ventures such as becoming suppliers of better high-speed broadband and renewable electricity or heating systems.
“They are up for the challenge, but they face an uphill struggle if government doesn’t start doing more to champion this type of rural investment,” said Mr Murray.
The government could help family businesses through the tax regime; by removing regulations hampering housing development; investment in roads, mobile coverage and broadband; and creating markets for ecosystem services such as clean water and flood risk management, said Mr Murray.
This could help unlock landowners’ investment so they could create wealth and deliver three main services to local communities – connectivity (broadband, mobile coverage), natural capital (ecosystem services) and energy.
“I really do believe the rural economy in Britain is the Cinderella of the national economy,” said Mr Murray.
“Beautiful but often misunderstood, neither fully appreciated nor as productive as we could be”
Mark Sutherland, national head of agriculture at Barclays, urged landowners to make their voices heard in Westminster.
“It can’t be down to Ross [Murray], it’s got to be down to everyone in the room to talk about investment,” he said.
“Use social media, talk to your MPs, talk to your contacts.”
“There is a real opportunity to drive the UK forward through a rural agenda. There is an opportunity to create jobs, to create wealth for the UK.”