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Rural Diversification

Volume 405: debated on Monday 12 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the constraints on rural diversification imposed by planning requirements; and what recent discussions she has had with the Deputy Prime Minister on a more permissive planning environment for farmers seeking to diversify. [11270]

An assesment of the approach taken by the local planning authorities in England to diversification of farm businesses was published by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions in October 2001 [1]. The report found that overall 83 per cent. of the planning applications considered had been approved; nonetheless, all planning authorities in rural areas are being encouraged to follow best practice and reach the standard of the best.The Governments proposals [2] for reform of the planning system reflect the need for the system to be faster, simpler and more predictable, and to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. As part of a review of all existing planning policy guidance signalled in the proposals, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently reviewing Planning Policy Guidance note 7 [3] which sets out policies specifically for rural areas. Within the Governments objectives for sustainable development, the overall aim is to make the planning system more responsive to the needs of all rural businesses, taking account of all relevant economic, social and environmental issues. The Government has provided a significant injection of extra resources into local authority planning services to help with delivering the step change represented by the overall package of reforms.The Department continues to work closely with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on ensuring that the effectiveness and relevance of Government planning policies and other planning issues is kept under review.

[1] The Implementation of National Planning Policy Guidance (PPG7) in Relation to the Diversification of Farm Businesses, October 2001, ODPM
[2] Sustainable Communities—Delivering Through Planning, July 2002, ODPM
[3] The Countryside— Environmental Quality and Economic and Social Development (PPG7), February 1997, part updated March 2001, ODPM