Agents Eye column

23rd April 2012

We are certainly seeing the true meaning of April showers at present and it can’t be any fun lambing sheep outdoors on the hills at present. It seems as though the Schmallenberg disease has stayed away from Yorkshire though which is a blessing.

I must confess that my planning knowledge is limited, but my planning team have been drumming it home hard to us the significance of the major changes to planning policy, called National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Planning is such a fundamental part of most rural businesses and particularly those looking to diversify and expand to be more sustainable for the future.

So NPPF; it’s all part of Cameron’s Big Society theory and putting more power into the communities and council. So what does it mean to the average layman? Well significantly, all the major planning guidance notes have been scrapped and the presumption now lies in favour of “sustainable development”, which means “ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations.” So in practice, more weight should be applied on those schemes supporting economic growth without impacting on the environment. For rural business in particular, the framework is to support development and diversification of agriculture and other land based businesses; retaining the importance of local services and minimising need to travel large distances or use more sustainable methods of transport. For those of you within AONB’s and National Parks, greater weight is to be applied to conserving those areas and communities will be able to allocate “Local Green Space” – in effect community based green belts.

Will it make life any easier for rural businesses? In the long term, we expect it to be easier, particular those farmers out there looking for economic growth, but in the interim and what we are experiencing on the ground, is a lack of clarity arising from the changes and resulting caution being applied by the local planning authorities. We therefore expect more appeal’s in the short term, which will clarify the interpretation of NPPF.

Turning to some other more light hearted information, National Grid Carbon are contacting landowners seeking access arrangements for initial surveys. These don’t seem in line with other major infrastructure projects in the UK at present. It’s so key to understand the compulsory purchase position if the scheme goes ahead in order to understand your rights and compensation due etc and the negotiating position one can find themselves in. Undoubtedly it will cause major disruption to many, and you need to be fully covered for such damages and problems that will undoubtedly occur. We are all well aware of many poor pipeline jobs that have been done in the past that continue to cause issues to land occupiers.

Just a reminder about the new rural economy grant which was launched about a month ago; the closing date for outline applications is 30th April, so if you have any plans for a new or expanding rural economy business, animal welfare, tourism, water resource management or agri food, get it in asap.

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