Government departments will now have to ensure new policies take into account the needs of rural communities in key areas such as housing and planning, reports Strutt & Parker

Green belt land around Redbourn

Green belt land around Redbourn - Credit: Archant

Defra’s response to Lord Cameron’s Review on Rural Proofing says decision-making processes must consider people living in rural areas so they are given the same opportunities as residents in urban areas.

John McLarty, Head of Planning at Strutt & Parker, said: “Rural communities need to be taken seriously in local planning decision making, however as emerging neighbourhood plans have demonstrated it can be difficult for local decision makers to make real decisions. The need for good District and Borough plan making will underpin how local communities are protected and engaged at an early stage. I believe this is where most local protection and policy making can be achieved and ultimately help the rural communities.”

‘Rural proofing’ involves government departments ensuring public services are accessible and appropriate for rural areas, and the potential of the rural economy is maximised.

The report identified housing and planning as one of four key areas where ministers must consider the needs of the millions of people who live in the countryside, along with broadband and mobile coverage, education and skills, and childcare.

Defra’s response states that rural issues must become a “routine policy consideration” for all departments and that “departments will need to include as part of their annual reporting process information about how their policies have been rural proofed and what changes this has resulted in”.

A rural ambassador and ministerial task force will be appointed to make sure departments put the countryside first.

The measures also include an online evidence hub that will provide insight into living and working in the countryside, such as the fact there are more homeworkers in rural areas than urban areas, with roles that are more highly skilled and better paid, according to the government.

Most Read

Environment Secretary Liz Truss says she wants to see rural areas “fully connected” to the wider economy, with strong conditions for rural growth and a highly skilled rural workforce. She believes it should be easier to live and work in rural areas, with greater local powers balanced by strong local governance.

The measures outlined in the response to the review build on the government’s first ever Rural Productivity Plan, which was launched this summer to boost the rural economy by simplifying planning laws and improving infrastructure and connectivity.

Report courtesy of Strutt & Parker development news.