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Rural Economy

Volume 555: debated on Monday 17 December 2012

Following the rural economy growth review, the Government have committed £165 million to growth in rural communities, including £60 million in small grants to farms, forestry and micro-enterprises and £15 million to promote rural tourism. The Government have also dedicated £530 million for superfast broadband in rural areas.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the retained business rate provides a great opportunity for district councils to help businesses, building on the success of Gloucestershire county council in investing money in broadband and promoting careers advice throughout the county, and does he also agree that more would be helpful?

I congratulate my hon. Friend. Following the agreement on broadband that was reached with the European Commission, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire have been allocated £18.1 million. My hon. Friend has made a good point: this gives councils an opportunity to receive money as a right rather than approaching the Government with a begging bowl.

What is the Government’s policy on allowing existing businesses in the rural community to expand their premises?

Our policy can be seen in the national planning policy framework, and also in local plans. A number of local authorities have pioneered the use of redundant farm buildings. Decisions are made on an entirely local basis.