Rural body calls for overhaul of 'broken planning system'

The CLA's report calls for the rural planning system to be reformed to allow for small-scale developments
The CLA's report calls for the rural planning system to be reformed to allow for small-scale developments

The government is being urged to overhaul its approach to housing in the countryside by fixing the 'broken' planning system.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 rural businesses and landowners, has made the call in a new report.

The rural body says it wants to help tackle the housing crisis in the countryside, where homes are becoming increasingly unaffordable to local people.

The report highlights the 'transformative' economic and social benefits small-scale developments could bring to rural communities.

The CLA says the government needs to develop an approach that allows for a small number of homes to be built in a large number of villages.

This will support local employment and strengthen the social fabric of these areas by ensuring pubs, shops and schools can stay open, the CLA explains.

However, this style of organic, incremental growth will only be possible if supported by a 'more accommodating planning framework'.

Under the current system, the CLA says that large-scale developments which negatively alter the nature of local communities are favoured over more modest proposals.

The call comes after Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove opted not to proceed with reforms of the planning system, leaving the government short of its housebuilding targets.

But the CLA's report shows that in 2020 over 260,000 people in rural areas were on a housing waiting list.

If the rural planning system was reformed to allow for small-scale developments, the government could see this figure significantly reduced, the rural body says.

The 'rigid' planning system means housebuilding cannot keep up with population demand, further draining the countryside of its young people and workforce.

Even after the pandemic-fuelled surge of interest in rural homes, the CLA warns that this lag in housebuilding is seeing the rural economy continue to fall behind.

Mark Tufnell, president of the CLA, said that fundamental flaws in today’s planning system were letting rural communities down.

"For too long, its unnecessary red tape has held back the initiation of projects, stifling investment, innovation and entrepreneurship in the countryside.

"For rural areas to thrive, there needs to be an adequate, available, and diverse supply of homes, which includes different tenure types of varying sizes.

"Without it, we prevent young families from continuing to live in their community, key workers from being based near their places of work, and the elderly from downsizing."

What is the CLA calling for?

The rural organisation's report sets out five changes to the planning system. These include:

• Smaller number of houses in a larger number of villages – return to a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) promoting organic, incremental growth in settlements with fewer than 3,000 residents.

• Reform local authority sustainability assessments – change assessments to ensure they are more reflective of the services that could be supported if development were enabled, and give more weight to digital connectivity.

• Mandatory housing needs assessments across all rural settlements – Undertake housing need assessments for settlements that have not previously been allocated housing, in addition to those that already have, to ensure need is properly identified and met.

• Extension of permitted development rights – allow permitted development on rural exception sites to provide affordable rental housing options for the benefit of local communities.

• Inheritance tax exemptions – extend conditional IHT exemptions to affordable rented housing for the period in which homes remain let as such.