Future planning policy in rural areas must respect the vital work of farmers as food producers, according to NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts who will address the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants (BIAC) national rural planning conference.
Mr Roberts will tell delegates today (Thursday 11 October) that the planning process is often expensive and time-consuming and that many local authorities need more understanding about the planning needs of a farm.
He said: “The NFU has always been clear about the essential ingredients for a progressive, profitable, and sustainable food and farming sector post Brexit – these ingredients include comprehensive measures to improve farm productivity.
“As part of any future drive to improve productivity which will be critical to the industry’s future success, farm businesses will need to invest in their businesses with development and infrastructure projects - improving facilities like slurry storage and livestock accommodation as well as investing in a plethora of diversification projects.
“The recently revised National Planning Policy Framework states that planning policies should help create conditions in which businesses can expand and adapt. In relation to the rural economy planning policies should include: the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business in rural areas, both through conversion of existing buildings and well-designed new buildings; the development and diversification of agricultural and other land-based rural businesses; sustainable rural tourism and leisure developments which respect the character of the countryside
“It is therefore absolutely essential that planning authorities ensure they take all this into account when making decisions in the future. Planning policies must value farmland and ensure farmers have more choice in how they seek to use their land and buildings in the future.
“Affordable rural housing is another major issue - the provision of housing for farm workers or retirement properties to secure farm succession. It was pleasing to hear Defra minister Lord Gardiner being positive on the proposed changes to the NPPF at the recent rural housing summit at Highgrove.
“Another area to examine is the provision for rural exception sites which are designed to meet the needs of the community rather than people wishing to relocate to the countryside. Care does need to be taken, however, that these are not outlawed by developers or local planning authorities in favour of the new entry-level exception sites which do not have to be rurally located.”