Monthly Archives: September 2012

New ‘Contract’ to give rural communities power to hold Government to account on rural growth

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Rural England has new power to hold the Government to account on its promise to grow the rural economy and support thriving communities, as Environment Secretary Owen Paterson unveils the first ‘rural contract‘ today.

The Rural Statement gives people in rural areas an expectation of the changes they should see both at work and in their communities as the Government delivers its vision for rural England.

It formalises the Government’s drive for rural businesses to overcome barriers to growth and make a sustainable contribution to economic recovery, setting out the initiatives that are already making progress towards this ambition, and those that will open up rural business opportunities in the near future. The Rural Statement names superfast broadband delivery, rural business grants and Rural Growth Networks among initiatives to create jobs, new business opportunities and economic growth.

It also reaffirms the Government’s commitment to tackle red tape and free rural businesses and farms from the unnecessary Government control that has got in the way of rural economic growth in the past.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “Rural economic growth is vital for this country. The Government’s role is to ensure that rural areas have the infrastructure they need to grow. Businesses should then be free from the unnecessary Government red tape that has got in the way of rural economic growth in the past.

“For too long, rural England was neglected by central Government and its businesses struggled to achieve their ambitions. We’ve already transformed the prospects of thousands of rural businesses and, want to make sure that change is felt in every part of rural England. To do this, we’ve created the first ‘rural contract’ to give rural areas the power to hold us to account on our promise to grow the rural economy and support thriving rural communities.”

Harry Cotterell, President of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA), said: “We welcome this focus on rural economic growth. Long-term sustainability and the competitiveness of rural businesses are crucial in the present economic climate. It is vital Defra understands the needs and interests of rural businesses as well as those who live and work in rural areas.”

Central to the Government’s drive to unlock the economic potential of rural England is its pledge to achieve the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015. In Cumbria today, Mr Paterson will celebrate with one of the first two communities to have been given a pre-contract agreement for funding for superfast fibre optic broadband. More than 500 homes and businesses in Garsdale and Dentdale will be connected following the Government’s £157,500 investment in the Fibre Garden community-led project. This is part of the Government’s £20 million Rural Community Broadband Fund, and in addition to its £530 million Broadband Delivery UK programme.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said: “Superfast broadband is key to the economic prosperity of rural communities. The Government is investing £680 million in delivering the best broadband in Europe – and we are slashing red tape to get the programme moving quickly. The Government means business and superfast broadband will help kick start our economy.”

The Government has said that businesses in rural areas shouldn’t be held back because of their location and rural communities should have fair access to public services. The Rural Statement formalises this ambition and makes clear that, to achieve these aims, the Government will engage directly with rural communities and businesses so that they can influence the changes needed.

As part of the engagement process, all Defra ministers are attending a series of Rural Roadshows. These will enable ministers to hear first-hand about rural issues from communities and businesses, to discover what help is needed to support rural growth and jobs. Today, Defra minister, Richard Benyon visited an ‘enterprise hub’ created by the region’s Rural Growth Network. In five regions across the country, Rural Growth Networks are expected to create a total of more than 3,000 jobs and 700 start-up businesses following a £15 million total Government investment.

The development has also been welcomed by the County Councils Network. A spokesperson said: “The County Councils Network, representing 85% of the land mass of England, including the vast majority of rural areas, welcomes the publication of the Rural Statement. We are pleased to see the recognition of key policy areas including rural proofing, support to the rural economy, and rural infrastructure, not least broadband. We will be working with Defra and others to ensure this message is taken up across Government, by the wider public sector, and within rural England itself”.

Notes
1. Media enquiries to Lydia Martin in the Defra Press Office 0207 238 6751 lydia.martin@defra.gsi.gov.uk
2. The Rural Statement is at www.defra.gov.uk/rural/economy
3. Find out more about Defra Rural Roadshows and the launch of the Rural Statement at http://storify.com/DefraGovUK (link live at 00.01 Wednesday 12 September).
4. Photos from Rural Roadshows are available on Flickr at Rural Roadshows. Track the course of Defra Rural Roadshows at Google Map – Defra Rural Roadshows.
5. Subject to pre-contract conditions being met, the first two communities in the country will be offered funding from the Rural Community Broadband Fund. This £20 million Fund, financed jointly by Defra and Broadband Delivery UK, is delivering superfast broadband to the remotest communities, which would otherwise receive a minimum standard broadband connection under the main rural broadband programme. The Fibre GarDen project will create a fibre optic network that connects every property in the isolated and sparsely populated upland rural communities of Garsdale and Dentdale in south east Cumbria. The superfast broadband network, with initial speeds of 100 mbps, will be built and operated by the community interest company, Fibre GarDen CIC. Once the build is complete, the ownership of the network will remain with the CIC, ensuring that it continues to serve the community’s needs into the future. The other community project to have been offered pre-contact agreement is Fell End, situated over seven miles from the nearest service centre, in Ravenstonedale, Cumbria. Subject to contractual agreements, the Government has agreed to provide £17,400 for this second project from the Rural Community Broadband Fund to connect 58 premises.
6. In November 2011, the Rural Economy Growth review was announced to stimulate rural economic growth. Measures include:
• £100 million from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to give rural businesses new opportunities to grow
• Grants totalling £20 million to extend superfast broadband to the remotest areas;
• £15 million for Rural Growth Networks to address the barriers to growth that rural businesses face; expected to create 3,000 new jobs and 700 start-ups
• Action to make it easier to change the use of farm buildings to address the shortage of rural business premises
• £25 million to promote rural tourism and supporting its businesses (includes £10 million RDPE funding)
• Loans totalling £15 million for community-owned renewable energy schemes

Government announcement on further planning reforms

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Following speculation in the press over the last couple of weeks, the Government has today released a statement setting out a proposed range of measures for making further reforms to the planning system, following the publication of the NPPF in March this year.

The statement includes encouragement for councils to use existing powers to review areas of green belt to free up areas of land suitable for development, for example previously developed sites, whilst maintaining the general openness of the green belt, for example by bringing alternative land into the green belt to compensate. Local authorities who propose such changes will have their local plan examinations prioritised to ensure such changes can be brought about quickly.

Proposed reforms include changes to permitted development rights, with the introduction of rights to enable changes of use from commercial to residential properties and a proposed consultation on increasing permitted development rights for households and businesses for a three year period.

In order to ensure new housing developments go ahead, the Government intends to introduce legislation in early 2013 which would allow a developer of a site with a S106 requirement for affordable housing to appeal the requirement should they feel it is making the scheme unviable, and to allow the Planning Inspectorate to reassess the contribution in the light of the current economic conditions. Developers will also be able to seek a one year extension to planning permissions to given them additional time to get sites up and running before their planning permission expires.

And perhaps at odds with their ‘localism’ agenda, the Government proposes to give the Planning Inspectorate further powers, including the role of directly deciding planning applications in local authority areas with poorly performing planning departments, and the ability to award more costs against councils at appeal where it is clear they have not handled a planning application as it should have been. The Government is also planning to consult on options for speeding up planning appeals and for introducing a fast track process – similar to the one introduced for householder appeals – for small commercial appeals. In another proposal to move decision making away from the local level, there are proposals to bring more proposals under the thresholds for consideration by the Major Infrastructure Unit, including commercial and business development, to allow more schemes ‘of sufficient significance’ to be considered and determined at a national level.

More details to follow…..

Acquisition brings growing success for Rural Solutions

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Confidence in an economically successful future for the UK’s rural communities is a key factor in the expansion of Rural Solutions Ltd.

The rural planning and development specialists are expanding their operations and bucking the economic downturn with the acquisition of North West based Rural Innovation.

The move, which comes partly as a result of new planning regulations that bring enhanced opportunities for sustainable rural development, strengthens the expertise the Yorkshire-based company is able to offer to both public and private sector clients.

Managing Director William Fry explained: “During the past three years, we’ve established a strong reputation as a company offering quality bespoke planning and development services for rural customers.

“These are exciting times for rural communities. Earlier this year, new planning regulations were introduced which enable appropriate and sustainable development in rural areas. This long overdue change will breathe new life into our rural communities, optimise their future sustainability and maximise their economic potential”.

“We have already seen an increase in demand for our services and we’ve grown by 36% every year since 2009. We’ve also expanded from a team of three people in one small office to 18 people in Yorkshire and the South East – so it made perfect sense for us to seize this opportunity to grow further and expand into the North West.”

Rob Hindle of North West based Rural Innovation has joined the team and brings more than 20-years’ experience in specialist rural planning, development and research.

Rob explained: “I have specialised in rural development for more than 20 years working with both public and private sector clients to enhance the future sustainability of rural communities and estates through strategic planning and the sensitive development of new housing, workspace, leisure and tourism facilities..

“Bringing the two businesses together makes perfect sense at a time of increased opportunity as we can combine our specialist services to create a centre of excellence for rural planning and development.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left to right: Director Rob Hindle with Managing Director William Fry

Rural Solutions Acquires Rural Innovation

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Rural Solutions is pleased to announce it has acquired Rural Innovation. Please read on for a message from our newest Director, Rob Hindle:

September, the practical start to so many people’s year brings a new chapter for me also. After twelve years trading independently as Rural Innovation, I have joined forces with Rural Solutions Ltd, the nationwide rural planning and development specialists.

Much of the last twelve years has been spent working with clients and colleagues in the public sector trying to enhance understanding of the form and function of rural communities and economies and to develop policy and publicly funded interventions which enable sustainable growth.

This decade of rural research has demonstrated the potential that rural areas have for economic development as well as their vibrancy and fundamental resilience to economic shock. Britain’s rural areas are blessed with core assets – land, buildings, people – which overflow with economic potential and which time and again have proven capable of providing the foundation of economic diversification and innovation.

Britain’s rural areas are also attractive, and in the main part accessible. This makes them great places to live, and increasingly, viable places to provide new homes and in which to sustain the expansion of existing settlements.

Britain desperately needs more homes and Britain’s economy needs sustainable development, both to provide the facilities and infrastructure to support future growth and to provide badly needed investment in businesses, communities and households.

I am convinced that rural Britain can help to deliver this growth. It can provide land for development of new homes for workspace and for infrastructure; it can provide existing buildings for re-use as homes, workspace, shops, visitor destinations and accommodation, leisure and community facilities. Its natural beauty and high quality built environment provides an important breathing space and opportunities for leisure and relaxation for everyone.

Changes in the planning system have been introduced which, if used in the right way, will enable rural people, communities and businesses to generate a new wave of sustainable growth; growth that will have a significant and positive impact on our economic futures and on our quality of life.

The expanded Rural Solutions business is exceptionally well placed to help enable sustainable and smart rural growth and I am excited about becoming a part of its future.