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CLA President challenges Government in major speech on rural economy


CLA President William Worsley today (Thursday, 3 March 2011) gave a major speech setting out his vision for the countryside.

Mr Worsley used the Associations spring Council meeting to deliver a 20-minute address highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the rural economy and calling on the Coalition Government to take action in a number of key areas.

On localism, Mr Worsley said: The Government says the Localism Bill is about promoting economic growth. Im not so sure. Im horrified by some of its proposals.

For example, if an asset might be of value to a local community, the owner wont be allowed to sell it or give it away until a community interest group has had the opportunity to bid for it. This is clearly unjust. It unreasonably restricts the freedom of an owner to dispose of property at a time or to a person of their choosing.

He called the planning system too complicated and too expensive and said: It is vital rural business is served by a planning system thats fully effective. We call on the Government to reform planning to make it more positive, flexible, transparent and efficient.

On empty property rates, Mr Worsley said: The final straw for many rural businesses is being forced to pay rates on empty premises. This has to be wrong. We call on the Government to restore the partial exemption for empty commercial property. Otherwise, therell be appalling consequences for the rural economy.

On CAP Reform, the CLA President said: We have relentlessly pushed the concept of Food and Environmental Security our philosophy that the CAP must help maintain our capacity to produce food while at the same time protecting and sustaining the natural environment. That means farmers need to be paid for producing food and for helping the environment. Crucially, the CLA is the only major UK organisation fighting to defend the budget for the CAP.

On coastal access, he said: The CLA was fundamentally opposed to the last Governments proposals for coastal access in England. We believe they were wholly unnecessary, and that its wasteful and absurd that the Coalition is implementing its predecessors crazy plans at a cost of 50million. Instead, the Government might care to look to Wales where coastal access has been achieved without these draconian measures.

On broadband, he said: The CLA has relentlessly highlighted the digital divide between rural and urban communities, lobbying the Government to accept the need to adopt a Universal Service Commitment broadband speed of two megabits per second. Now we are raising the bar again, calling for a universal speed of at least five megabits per second by 2015.

Mr Worsley praised the Coalition Government for revoking wholly disproportionate controls on game farming, and for investing 1billion in renewables.

The CLA President also talked about the challenges of lobbying the Coalition Government, taxation issues, forestry, the Uplands, water, and the need to modernise the public rights of way network.

He added: How will farming restructure to satisfy a world that demands more food of high quality at a low price? Theres no sense in pretending farming will remain the same. It wont.

We need to think far into the future, to prepare our members for whats round the corner, to make the coming decades brighter and, yes, in some cases, less painful, so rural businesses can continue to survive and thrive.

Download William Worsleys full Address to the CLA Council from the CLA website at:

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has around 35,000 members.

As a membership organisation, the CLA supports landowners by advising them on how best to protect and maximise their asset: the land. We are dedicated to supporting landowners and their businesses.

Our success is measured by how effectively we do that. We have a team of experts in London and a regional structure able to give local support. We have been looking after the interests of our members, as well as promoting the positive aspects of land ownership, land management and rural business activities for the past 100 years.

CLA members own or manage approximately half the rural land in England and Wales, and the resulting expertise puts us in a unique position to formulate policies and lobby effectively.

For more information about the CLA, visit: or follow us on Twitter

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