NFU approval for planning policy

DRAFT government proposals to allow a more streamlined planning process for rural developments have been met with approval from the NFU.

In its submission to the consultation on the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the NFU is suggesting five specific areas where the framework could be strengthened to meet the government’s objective for increased food production.

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said: “Broadly speaking, it is fair to say that we are pleased with the draft in its current format. Throughout our submission we have emphasised that the NFU is fully supportive of the drive to promote sustainable development, which will be hugely important for farmers who need modern buildings in order to increase capacity for food production.

“It also provides some welcome recognition of the importance of food production. However, it lacks the necessary urgency to support increasing productivity, or reference to relevant government positions. The NPPF should provide a clearer link to the government’s policy to encourage food production early in the NPPF’s principles.”

Mr Raymond also highlighted the need for a diverse and vibrant rural economy.

“There must also be an understanding that the rural economy and farm businesses are more than just concerned with food production. The NPPF should support the development of a diverse and vibrant rural economy based upon a broad range of economic activities and employment opportunities,” he added.

“Diverse rural economies and businesses are more resilient, especially at times of increasing volatility. If the agricultural economy is to flourish in a sustainable manner, then national and local planning policies must create a permissive and flexible approach rather than a very narrow focus on what is considered ‘appropriate’ in a rural area.

“We also make the case for the need of affordable rural housing. There remains a critical lack of affordable housing for those living and working in the countryside. Data from the Commission for Rural Communities and the Affordable Rural Homes Commission demonstrate that house prices and rents are often unaffordable for rural workers and young families.”