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Budget 2017: Reaction from rural and farming leaders at CLA and NFU

PUBLISHED: 17:32 22 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:32 22 November 2017

Farmland, homes and a solar farm near Trowse. Picture: Mike Page

Farmland, homes and a solar farm near Trowse. Picture: Mike Page

Mike Page

Farming and countryside business leaders said they had hoped for a greater focus on rural policy in the chancellor's Autumn Budget - particularly on the key issue of housing provision.

Cambridgeshire farmer Tim Breitmeyer, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).Cambridgeshire farmer Tim Breitmeyer, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

In his address to parliament, Philip Hammond announced £44bn in government support to boost construction and meet a target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of the next decade.

He also said an urgent review would be launched into why there is a “significant gap” between the number of homes with planning consent, and those which are actually built by developers.

Tim Breitmeyer, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), who farms on the Cambridgeshire-Essex border, said: “We need more homes of all types across the whole country.

“It is worrying for a chancellor to be so explicit in describing a policy so completely focused on urban areas. The shortage of homes in rural communities is no less acute than in our towns and cities. Rural landowners stand ready and able to play their part in delivering the homes people need. “Another budget has gone by without making simple changes to tax and planning policy that could make a big difference.

NFU president Meurig Raymond. Picture: ANTONY KELLYNFU president Meurig Raymond. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

“We welcome the increase in the number of small sites in local plans and the further funding for the Home Builders Fund. We also look forward to participating in the review to be led by Oliver Letwin (the MP for West Dorset) into the build-out rates of land with planning permission for housing.

“It is important that we remove any barriers to getting homes built. We will, however, strongly resist the suggestion of blanket changes to policies on compulsory purchase of land for house building. This should only ever be a last resort. Councils should be focused on establishing effective partnerships with local landowners not seeking to forcibly remove their property.”

Meanwhile, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond called on all departments across government to prioritise the nation’s need to produce food and care for the countryside.

“We are disappointed to see no meaningful measures to help prepare farming businesses for life outside the EU in today’s Budget statement,” he said. “With most of the emphasis on urban growth, there is little in the way of measures to benefit rural communities.

“We do, however, appreciate that this is a fairly stable Budget that does not appear to have any adverse impact on our industry.

“In these times of uncertainty, and ahead of significant upheaval, we need to have sustainable and viable businesses producing the nation’s food. Our calls to create the right environment for investing in farming, to mitigate risks, are yet to be answered.

“We will look with interest to next week’s Industrial Strategy launch and hope it will include specific measures to support the agri-food sector.”

Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at insurers NFU Mutual, said: “At first glance, there was not a lot for farmers to get excited about – but a few measures which will ease tax bills – and a huge relief that the chancellor avoided increases in duty on petrol and diesel which would have hit country people very hard.

“There was good news for self-employed farmers and all those working as employees that the chancellor has stuck to the Tories’ promise to keep increasing personal tax allowances. They will be going up to £11,850 for basic rate taxpayers and £46,350 – which means a few hundred pounds more out of the taxman’s grasp.

“No increase in fuel duty rates for petrol or diesel is a huge relief for farmer and their families who currently have no alternative to using these fuels to work the land and get about in the countryside.”

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