The leader of an influential lobby group has claimed political support is needed to realise the "huge economic and social potential" of the countryside as he called for all parties to back its 'rural powerhouse' scheme.
The Country Land and Business Association will write to every candidate in every constituency in England and Wales ahead of the General Election asking them to pledge support for five key rural projects.
The aims include a fully-connected countryside, a planning system designed for rural communities, a simple tax regime, profitable and sustainable farming and investment in skills and innovation.
Incoming CLA President Mark Bridgeman, who farms on the Northumberland coast near Alnwick, said the Rural Powerhouse campaign is being launched ahead of the General Election but would continue long after the December 12 poll.
He said: “The Rural Powerhouse is not just a campaign to last for a few weeks, with a few glossy pamphlets and press releases. It is a new approach for the Country Land and Business Association. At a time when political tensions are high, we are standing up proudly to say that we believe in the potential of the rural economy, and we are here to champion it.
“The Rural Powerhouse campaign is rooted in the belief that the countryside has an exciting future and we all have a role in shaping it. Any future MP worth their salt should proudly back the campaign.”
The CLA says rural businesses cover everything from farming to tourism, housing to energy production. Because of their location and unique circumstances, they often have to be agile and explore opportunities across different sectors, but this can be hampered by a lack of investment, government support and excessive red tape.
Political candidates who support the campaign will receive regular briefings and campaign materials throughout the election period, and beyond.
Mr Bridgeman continued: “We want to build productive relationships with MPs from all parties. When supporters of the Rural Powerhouse enter Parliament in December, we will be there to help them do their jobs – whether that’s working closely with them so that they understand the needs of rural communities, or ensuring they are ready to champion our policy campaigns in the heart of Westminster.”
“They should know, as we do, that the countryside can provide answers to so many of the issues that concern ordinary people – from climate change and the environment to the housing crisis. We are ready and raring to go – and with the right political support we can realise the countryside’s huge economic and social potential.”
Calling for changes to the planning system, the CLA says landowners want to contribute to the local economy but are held back from converting or building homes and offices "through a one-size fits all approach and a lack of resource at local authority level".
The lobby group also calls for the Agriculture and Environment Bills to be fast-tracked through the new Parliament to end uncertainty and help farmers plan for the future.
It says farming and agriculture is the "bedrock of the rural economy" but that their future has been “put on hold” owing to the political stagnation in Westminster.
The CLA also wants the next government to recognise estates and farms as one single entity for tax purposes, cutting red tape and bureaucracy. Currently, rural entrepreneurs are often forced to split their different enterprises for tax purposes which must be treated separately, potentially limiting rural investment.