Planning laws boost hope for business

Freeing up rural planning laws will make homes more affordable and businesses more successful, the government has said.

Announcing the proposed changes, housing minister Margaret Beckett said they will simplify existing planning regulations allowing rural businesses to get planning permission on sites that are suitable for their setting.

Local Authorities and developers will also be encouraged to identify “exception” sites that can provide affordable local housing. Medium-sized rural towns will also have to develop sustainable new neighbourhoods rather than what Mrs Beckett describes as “soulless” estates on the edge of towns. A £1m competition to encourage best practice will also be held.

“These subtle but important changes are the key to getting the balance right between protection and development in the countryside,” said Mrs Beckett.

At the heart of the changes will be a new single Planning Policy Statement that brings together existing planning guidance and also lays out goals of sustainable economic development in the countryside.

The new laws are the result of the recommendations in the A Living and Working Countryside report carried out be Liberal Democrat MP Matthew Taylor last year as part of Gordon Brown’s Government of All the Talents.

Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, president of the Country Land and Business Association, welcomed the report and the government’s response to it.

“Here is a government report that not only positively promotes the abilities of rural businesses to modernise, expand and remain profitable, but also promotes the needs of rural communities for rural housing,” said Mr Aubrey-Fletcher.

The proposed changes will be put out for consultation shortly by the Communities and Local Government department.