Recommendations have been made on ways to enhance beneficial economic growth in rural areas through simplifying the planning system in England.
Three challenges need to be overcome to get the rural economy moving again, according to a new report by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).
These are responding to the community needs, levelling up the economy and recovering from the economic impact of Covid-19.
A reformed planning system, which the CLA said was needed even prior to the pandemic, could help address all three.
The group said a 'restrictive and inefficient' planning system was 'harming the potential' of the economy in rural areas.
It added that this had led to 'wasted expenditure, unrealistic demands and an out-dated perception of the economy in rural areas.'
It comes as the government recently unveiled plans to simplify the planning system as a way to kick start the post-Covid economic recovery.
CLA president, Mark Bridgeman said simplifying the planning system could unlock a new wave of investment in the countryside.
“Planning reform can be an important ingredient to boost economic development in rural areas and help the recovery," he said.
"Rural office locations may become more attractive in the light of the coronavirus; if that is the case, the planning system needs to be able to respond quickly to emerging demand.
“In the short term, local planning authorities may want to free up vacant office and commercial space for new uses. Again, this requires a flexible and fast-planning process."
However, Mr Bridgeman said 'archaic laws' have held back economic development in rural areas. "Now is the time for change," he added.
What recommendations are made in CLA's report?
The paper makes a series of short-term and long-term recommendations to adapt the planning system to respond to the needs of the rural economy:
• Avoid wasted expenditure - reduce the burden of supporting a planning application with costly surveys that can be nugatory.
• Exempt all new farm buildings from the community infrastructure levy
• Progress heritage reforms - approve a package of reforms drawn up by the heritage sector.
• Open up the local plan to a more segmented approach so that for example economic development can forge ahead as soon as that part of the local plan has been agreed.
• Make rural communities fit for the future - local authorities must factor current and emerging tech development into sustainability assessments.
• Introduce a national policy for roadside barn conversions
• Resource the planning system so that it is fit for purpose
• Conduct a comprehensive review of Green Belt planning policy
• Ensure land value capture delivers a competitive return to a willing seller
• Improve the minerals planning policy