Rural Statement puts welcome focus on economic growth, says CLA

The CLA has said the Rural Statement, launched today (12 September) by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, puts the focus on economic growth.

CLA President and Herefordshire landowner Harry Cotterell said CLA members own or run more than 250 types of rural businesses, from large-scale agriculture through to micro-businesses, and they “all have a hunger for growth”.

He said: “We welcome the focus on economic growth in the Rural Statement. 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.”

Mr Cotterell accompanied the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, at a rural stakeholder event and Annual Rural Conference in Cumbria today where he launched the Rural Statement.

The CLA supported the Statement’s view that the development of competitive agriculture must receive backing across the UK and European Union but that the Statement presented three challenges for the rural economy.

Mr Cotterell said: “While it is important to reduce the amount of red tape faced by rural businesses, the Rural Statement makes no mention of the recommendations made by the Farming Regulation Task Force on this issue. The worry is that recommendations will be picked and chosen to suit Defra, and unnecessary burdens for farmers and landowners will not be lifted.

“We would also like to see housing in rural areas recognised as helping to boost economic growth. This would bring Defra in line with the rest of government, particularly when it comes to finding a use for redundant farm buildings.”

He added: “The Statement does not announce any new measures on the lack of rural broadband access and mobile connectivity which must be prioritised as it is a major block for rural economic growth.”

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