Many farmers are nervous about applying for planning permission. It is an expensive, time-consuming and complicated process and everyone gets to comment on what you are looking to build. Basically, it adds risk to a farm project.
The government has said it is listening and it wants evidence of how the planning system can work better. It wants to boost rural productivity.
Its Rural Planning Review runs until 21 April and farmers are invited to comment.
This is a critical time for farming and the fact the government is even consulting on this is a win for the NFU. It was one of our Manifesto Asks.
All sectors work differently and farming challenges vary between different parts of the country. However, issues such as falling food prices, volatility in world markets and a rapidly rising population to feed and to build homes for are all impacting on farm businesses.
We think it's crucial that that, where there is regulation, it supports farmers. Regulation needs to work to help farmers run their businesses so that they can grow and are sustainable for future generations. Where planning is concerned, this could mean allowing for larger, more efficient farm buildings, allowing diversification of buildings and land and allowing more homes to be built on farm to support succession, including from barn conversions.
The planning system also seems to be getting less fair in the countryside, where a single agricultural workers dwelling can be refused, while a large housing estate gets permission down the road. Decision-making often appears to be based on landscape impact and views rather than economic need.
It is important to realise that the landscapes people cherish exist because farmers own and maintain the land, and they need to run commercial businesses to do so.
Too often planning seems to be about those who shout the loudest and don’t appreciate the needs of rural economy. The NFU will be submitting a national response based on the feedback we’ve received from you.
However, this consultation also gives farmers the opportunity to feed in directly as an individual via a simple to complete questionnaire. It is important that we all grasp the chance to make farmers views known and we get a voice in this important consultation.