Bill must “do more” for local economy

The Country Land and Business Association have said the Coalition Government’s proposed Localism Bill must do more to help deliver economic growth in rural communities.

The Association said it supports the Bill’s aim to create a ‘Big Society’ and give local people a far greater say in decisions that affect them but a number of amendments must be made to help sustain the rural economy.

CLA president and Yorkshire landowner William Worsley said: “I believe this Bill has the potential to help protect and enhance the viability of rural communities but it must do more to deliver much needed economic growth in the countryside.

“The Government’s proposed reform of the planning system risks actually hindering rural growth. Developments to create new businesses and jobs, affordable housing and renewable energy projects so often do not go ahead because the system is too slow, complicated and expensive that the landowner simply gives up trying.

Mr Worsley said he was extremely concerned about the impact on property rights and economic enterprise by the Bill’s clause giving power to communities to save local assets threatened by closure or sale.

“There is no definition of what makes an ‘asset of community value’ so the range could be extremely wide, from pubs and post offices to land and local woodland in private ownership,” he said.

“If the local authority deems privately owned assets as of value to the community it could become a means for the authority to compulsorily acquire privately owned property without being subject to the checks and balances of the existing compulsory purchase process,” he said.

The CLA President added that the Bill’s proposal to give local authorities more discretion over rate reliefs will have a detrimental impact on the rural economy.

“At present, local authorities have the power to grant reliefs to businesses in rural areas.

If this exemption is scrapped as the Bill proposes, and replaced with powers to grant relief to charitable or not-for-profit enterprises, it will put the rural economy at a considerable disadvantage.”