Farmers and rural landowners have been urged to push the ‘rural narrative’ into Government policy decisions to keep up with demand for rural housing in a working countryside environment.
Speaking as part of the Conservative Rural Affairs Group at the Conservative Party Conference earlier today (October 2), Thérèse Coffey said the party was working with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to help create more sustainable and profitable rural communities, but warned a ‘rural narrative’ must be on the agenda in ‘every other single departmental plan’.
Delegates at the Manchester event heard how the industry was on the cusp of rising rural house prices and there was an ever-growing gap between the demand for new homes in the countryside and the lack of vital services.
She said: “We are working closely with the DCLG because we believe that rural housing is key to ensure that we have sustainable, thriving rural communities and to not allow the countryside to become a museum, a dormitory for people who might want second homes or have the rural lifestyle and then abandon it.
“In terms of diversification and the way forward, the Government has been relaxed with elements of planning policy in order to help people with holdings to diversify their income streams.”
Ms Coffey said Secretary of State Michael Gove had already proved himself a leader in the need for an ‘ever-improving environment’ and would champion rural communities in the new Agricultural Bill which she said would cover the mechanism to support a working, thriving countryside.
MP for Gordon Colin Clark echoed the importance for farming to become central in conversations about the food and drink industry but warned the agricultural sector desperately needed to shake off public misconception the countryside was naturally attractive.
He said there was already big concern services and infrastructure were not keeping up with rural housing developments.
“People are tribal,” he added. “It is all very well speaking about building new towns but the reality is people want to live on the edges of established rural towns.
“A productive rural economy will protect the environment, it will create new employment and it will help build new houses.”