CLA: Rural Lincolnshire businesses can help drive national economy

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Rural businesses in Lincolnshire could help drive forward the national economy for 2017 if the right support is provided by both local authorities and the government, says CLA’s Lincolnshire branch chairman Francis Dymoke.

In 2015, rural businesses in CLA’s east region invested an estimated £2.9 billion across a wide range of areas and are still looking to invest in the diversification of rural businesses into residential and commercial property, tourism and renewable energy.

Francis said: “It’s a significant sum that has done much to boost our national economy. The contribution of our county’s rural businesses to this figure cannot be underestimated.

“However, many are left frustrated by the planning system, which is often unnecessarily costly, time consuming and bureaucratic.

“The refusal rate for converting old farm buildings to residential units is almost three times higher than approvals to convert offices to homes, which indicates policy is not working.

“Government instability and ever-shifting policy is also a problem for farmers and landowners who look long-term for a return on their investments.

“Right now, they want some certainty on where they stand regarding Brexit and the opportunities that it will present them.

“Farmers will also be looking for news on changes to regulation that can be made on our exit from the EU that could have an immediate and positive impact – such as a replacement for CAP and a new process for licensing crop protection products.

“We also need certainty on reform of water abstraction regulation because there are major concerns regarding what it means for farmers and landowners. Radical reform of such a complex system needs careful planning, but the time taken to advance plans has caused uncertainty.

“This ultimately leads to a lack of confidence in making long-term capital investments.

“Economic policy, especially taxation, is also a major consideration when it comes to businesses progressing with investment plans. The 2017 Business Rates revaluation has increased the rate liability for many rural businesses, leaving many very concerned about the future viability of their enterprises.”