Suffolk CLA chairman calls for next government to act on rural issues

The aftermath of the tidal surge at Benacre

The aftermath of the tidal surge at Benacre - Credit: Archant

The Suffolk branch chairman of the Country Land and Business Association has called for the next government to address a series of key issues in order to unlock the county’s economic potential.

Edward Vere Nicoll from the Benacre Estate near Southwold, which loses around 25 acres of land to the sea each year, says that action will be required following next year’s General Election on rural priorities such as digital communications and flood and coastal defences – regardless of which party wins.

Other issues which will need to be addressed after polling day next May include food security, crop protection, and planning, he adds.

“Suffolk needs the next Government to recognise the importance of rural-based businesses and their potential for creating jobs and prosperity for their local economies,” said Mr Vere Nicholl.

“With every week that goes by, homes and businesses across the county are being held back by the lack of reliable access to broadband and an adequate mobile phone signal, which is often so poor users can’t even make a call.”

Mr Vere Nicholl said the tidal surge and floods of December 2013 had highlighted the lack of investment in river management systems and flood defences over recent years.

“People living and working in our countryside need a far greater say in flood and coastal management,” he said. “Given the right political climate and incentives, farmers and landowners can play a large part in mitigating flood risks and simply must be allowed to try their own methods even, if appropriate, on designated lands.”

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Mr Vere Nicholl added that the EU’s removal of many crop protection products, based upon limited, theoretical or insufficient evidence, impacted the ability of farms across the county growing crops. “We need recognition of the important role herbicides and fungicides play in protecting food production, as well as the environment and public health,” he said.

It was also important for local authorities to take a constructive approach to permitted development rights, which had potential to underpin farming business and boost the rural economy by putting redundant buildings to new uses.