Labour's plans for housing to 'significantly impact' rural firms

(Photo: CAAV)
(Photo: CAAV)

The change of government could have a 'significant impact' on the countryside and rural businesses if plans for new housing and infrastructure come to fruition.

This is according to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV), which warns that Labour will face hefty opposition from those against development.

“This is a government that, on the face of it, means to significantly increase the number of houses built and accelerate the infrastructure required for renewable energy and water,” says Jeremy Moody, secretary of CAAV.

“That will affect a lot of rural land, which may present opportunities for some and threats for others.”

However, plans for many major developments have been seriously delayed or thrown out through objection and judicial review.

Judicial review enables anti-development groups to claim that due procedures haven’t been followed and so tie proposals up for years.

Rural businesses are now waiting to see if it is feasible for a government to make the kind of structural changes needed to achieve economic growth.

"If we don’t do something radical, we will still be here in 30 years’ time," Mr Moody says.

"The acid test will be whether the Labour government introduces changes to the judicial review process, to make it easier to proceed with the development it has promised.

"The King’s Speech on 17 July will almost certainly promise some sort of Planning Bill. It will be interesting to see if the briefing includes prospects to limit judicial reviews."

If not, Labour will have missed the moment – with its big opportunity to limit the rights of challenge, CAAV explains.

The body expects a draft National Planning Policy Framework by the end of July, giving the 2022 housing targets back to local authorities.

Parallel to that, it envisages an expert working group to identify, within six months, sites for new towns.

While the Labour manifesto contained precious little pertaining to agriculture, it has committed to decarbonise electricity by 2030.

This will likely require significant investment in renewable energy and associated infrastructure, such as pylons.

Labour has also suggested strengthening compulsory purchase legislation, to pay less than market value for land – something which likely will not be popular with landowners.

Proposals to build on the Green Belt are also set to be unpopular with many local voters.

That is why the government needs to act fast to limit powers of appeal, if it is going to have a chance to deliver against its promises, CAAV explains.

“If Labour really means what it says on planning and growth, this is what it needs to do," Mr Moody concludes.

"But we’ll see whether it is willing to act hard enough and early enough to deliver its policies before resistance grows.”