Planning blueprint 'fails rural areas'

A LANDOWNERS group has condemned a major planning document for a “complete failure” to address rural issues.The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has criticised a report on the draft plan for the East of England - which sets out a framework for the region's growth until 2021 - for its “extreme urban bias”.

A LANDOWNERS group has condemned a major planning document for a “complete failure” to address rural issues.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has criticised a report on the draft plan for the East of England - which sets out a framework for the region's growth until 2021 - for its “extreme urban bias”.

It claims the recommendations show Suffolk and Essex's countryside economies and communities are being “well-nigh ignored”.

In one of the foremost regions for agriculture, there are only passing references to farming, which is given a mere four lines in a 252-page document, the association said.


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Its comments came after an independent panel published a report advising the Government on the draft East of England Plan, following its Examination in Public.

Tim Isaac, CLA regional surveyor, said: “This seems to be yet another example of a planning strategy which fails to properly acknowledge the needs of rural economies and communities.

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“At best, the rural sector is only mentioned by implication under urban sub-headings, such as economic development, retail and tourism, housing, transport, environment, water, renewable energy and waste.

“These are all profoundly important rural issues and to ignore the rural perspective is to ignore a vital component of our society, economy and environment in the Eastern region.”

The panel's report, released in June, has already come under fire for recommending a target of 505,500 new homes by 2021 - an increase of 27,500 on the new homes proposed by the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA).

The CLA questions why the inspector has proposed even greater numbers of houses and said its main concern is the “likely problem” of adequate water supply in the driest region in the country.

Improvements to the infrastructure, including transport, schools, hospitals, water, waste and energy, must be put in place before any large-scale development takes place, it adds.

The CLA view is that every community - even very small villages - should have limited growth capacity to meet local demand and ensure their survival.

On economic development, retail and tourism, it said the reference to the Haven Gateway, Cambridge and Harlow areas illustrate the report's “extreme urban bias”.

On renewable energy, it says a wider range of options, including biomass, tidal power, bio-fuels and nuclear power, should be considered.

Mr Isaac said, apart from the “occasional passing remark” on farming, the only specific reference takes up four lines.

“This would suggest that the dramatic and far-reaching changes in the farming economy have somehow been ignored,” he added.

An EERA spokeswoman said: “The draft East of England Plan promotes the economic and social well-being of the whole region and contains policies to support rural regeneration, including agriculture and tourism.

“It also requires housing, including affordable housing, to be provided in rural areas. It is the responsibility of local authorities to decide where new housing should be built in their area and to make sure local needs are met.

“The independent panel's report recommends more houses than are proposed in the draft plan. The Regional Assembly shares the CLA's worries about excessive housing growth and expressed 'serious concern' at our recent AGM.”

A spokeswoman for the Government Office for the East of England said it would not be appropriate for it to comment at this stage.

There will be further consultation before the Government publishes its proposed changes in November.

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