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12 September 2012
Responding to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Rural Statement 2012, Cllr Ken Hudson, Chair of the Rural Commission at the Local Government Association (LGA), said:
“Encouraging investment and growth in rural areas is a top priority for rural councils who have a long and proud history of promoting growth and finding solutions to local issues. Each community faces different barriers and priorities and it is essential that the Government follows through with its promise to free up unnecessary central control and give local authorities the flexibility they need to act in the interests of their local population.
“Councils are best placed to make decisions based on their individual set of circumstances and the LGA will be working closely with the Government to suggest how their current and new policies could be shaped to better meet rural needs.
“We are encouraged that the Rural Community Broadband fund is making progress however barriers continue to exist. The Government needs to prioritise securing EU clearance to spend the £530 million earmarked funding so that rural communities and businesses have access to a service which most of us use as an essential part of our working lives and take for granted. Government also needs to work with broadband providers to make better use of existing ducts and poles, rather than duplicating infrastructure.
“It will be particularly important to rural communities, where house prices are often prohibitive for first-time buyers, that efforts to kickstart new building do not come at the expense of Section 106 contributions from developers which provide much needed affordable housing and the parks, roads, street lighting and community centres needed to support growth.
“Local authorities are overwhelmingly saying 'yes' to new development. The latest figures on councils planning approval rates are at a 10 year high, so the planning system is not the problem. The LGA wants to work with the Government to focus on the key barriers to bringing forward new housing development, namely access to mortgage and development finances.”