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Business as usual for the CLA during National Countryside Week


As National Countryside Week (July 11-18) helps focus the minds of the nation on rural matters, the CLA in the north has taken a snapshot of the issues with which its regional team are currently involved.

Douglas Chalmers, Director CLA North, said: Life in the countryside used to be thought of as slower and simpler, but this Johnny Countrymouse image couldnt be further from the truth. Week in week out, we help members deal with increasingly complex legislation, red tape and major issues that affect their ability to run their lives and their businesses the way they would like to.

The rural economy may still revolve around farming and food production, but it also contributes much more. Our tourism industry is founded on the landscape managed by farmers and land managers; it is where we get much of our wood, water and fuel and, increasingly renewable energy in its various forms. It offers peaceful or energetic leisure and recreation, but also provides opportunities for productive and sustainable employment, given the right infrastructure.

The rural economy continually evolves, but this week lets reflect upon the real issues behind the chocolate box image that many simply cannot see past. Britains countryside may be a playground for many, but is also the home, office and the factory floor for those who live and work here.

The CLA says that some of the issues it will be dealing with this week include:

Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy: We maintain that food production is the fundamental economic activity on rural land. Subsidies just to produce food have long gone and the CLAs argument since the early 1980s is that farmers should be rewarded for all the other benefits they provide free of charge – the ‘public goods’. We can only maintain public and political support for an EU Agricultural budget by stressing the link between food production and managing the environment. Recent European announcements suggest that our argument has won, allowing our famers and land managers to look forward to the next ten years with confidence.

Rural Broadband: The CLA is now recognised by everyone who matters as the one organisation consistently and persistently lobbying to speed up the rollout of fast, affordable broadband to rural areas. We have had considerable success, but we must still convince government that public and private investment is needed to allow those in rural areas the same opportunity to enjoy fast connectivity. Recent funding announcements are welcome, but how this is spent is vital to get broadband to the final third who will remain socially and economically disadvantaged without it.

Heritage: This doesnt simply mean old, large buildings, and our built heritage covers houses, steadings, gardens, field barns and walls to name only a few. Our members own and manage a great deal of Englands heritage, but their ability to do so can be hindered by costs and regulations, and we risk losing much of it. In our new major policy document we look at what has gone wrong with England’s heritage protection system, and identifythe solutions that could and would work.

Planning: We deal with individual queries on a day to day basis, but on the policy front the CLA believes that the planning system needs to be flexible and transparent and that the cost and difficulty of obtaining planning permission should be proportionate to the scale of a project. We lobby for the system to be reformed, minimising restrictions to economic development and job creation and allowing rural communities to thrive. Most CLA members run rural businesses and deserve a planning system that encourages their hard work and innovation.

Renewable energy: Providing members with independent, professional advice on all the renewable energy technologies, as well as the financial implications of investment, consumes an increasing amount of our advisers time, but often provides wide ranging benefits for businesses and communities.

Taxation: Tax legislation affects everyone, and the implications of wrong decisions can be lived with for generations. Our advisers experience and expertise in land and property based taxation is a major benefit to our members, often with long term beneficial implications.

Red tape: A rural business ourselves, we understand the frustration and anger that unnecessary forms, inspections and bureaucracy bring. Our campaign to reduce red tape has been running for years, and our evidence-based approach means our lobbying is especially effective.

Property Rights: The CLA is the only organisation dedicated to halting the erosion of the rights of farmers, landowners and rural businesses. We can explain your rights – and responsibilities – to ensure your investment is under your control, not that of others who happen to have an opinion. Safeguarding property rights is the core principle of the CLA. We are often the only people standing up for your rights, whoever or whatever is threatening them.

Mr Chalmers concludes: The Countryside deserves a week of celebration, and we should welcome this focus. Next week, the CLA Game Fair at Blenheim Palace will celebrate and showcase much of what is great in our rural areas, but lets not forget that the work goes on day in, day out.

Our countryside often looks empty, but the people who live and work there contribute a great deal to the health and wealth of the nation.

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