Planning reform could sway 70% of rural vote

According to the results of the CLA’s latest survey, the UK’s current planning system is squandering thousands of pounds for rural businesses and will sway how the countryside votes in this general election.

The poll of 350 rural business owners throughout England and Wales reveals:

  • 70 per cent either agree or strongly agree that each party’s policy on planning reform will influence the way they vote, with only 8% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) say they had been forced to abandon plans to invest because of planning problems. Of those, nearly half had wasted at least £10,000 on projects before giving up, with many (19%) reporting losses of more than £50,000.
  • 85 per cent of respondents strongly agree or strongly agree that the system has hampered the growth of their own business, with just 4 per cent strongly disagreeing or disagreeing.
  • 94 per cent say there was a lack of knowledge on rural issues and agricultural matters within the system, and 92% feel improved knowledge would be beneficial to projects.
  • Two thirds also believe the Green Belt restricts farm diversification projects, with 13 per cent saying it did not.

The results follow CLA polling earlier this year revealing Labour will beat the Conservatives in the 100 most rural constituencies in England, with the Tories at risk of losing more than half their seats amidst a -25 per cent collapse in support.

Peter Hogg, a farmer and rural business owner in Morpeth who responded to the survey, commented, “The planning system is crippling businesses like mine. We had a farmhouse I wanted to convert into a B&B to help diversify our income. But the application dragged on for over a year due to a dispute over adding a small sunroom, which should have been straightforward given it was replacing a previous extension we’d demolished.

“The delay meant we lost a full season and over £30,000 in revenue. And when permission was finally granted, it took just two weeks and £800 to build the sunroom – four times less than what we paid in planning costs.

“If businesses like mine are to succeed, government must cut the red tape that’s stunting our growth and livelihoods. Beyond the financial impact, the mental toll is profound. Many perceived problems could be sorted in 20 minutes over a cup of tea.”

Figures from the CLA’s latest planning survey suggest that Peter is not in the minority when it comes to rural businesses suffering from complex and convoluted planning regulations.

In response to the survey’s findings, CLA President Victoria Vyvyan said, “With the countryside’s vote on a knife edge, planning reform is key to winning rural seats. So many enterprises in rural areas could grow, create jobs, help provide housing, but are being stifled by an archaic planning regime that seems almost designed to restrict our ambition. This can’t afford to slip from party manifestos.

“Farmers and landowners are dynamic and innovative and want to help grow the rural economy, but time and again their efforts have been hampered and frustrated.

“Nobody wants to concrete over the countryside, least of all us, but instead of treating rural communities as museums, political parties need to support small-scale developments – adding small numbers of homes to a large number of villages, helping to provide lifelong housing for local people while also boosting the economy.

“For the first time in a decade rural communities feel politically homeless.

“The first party who can match our aspirations for a dynamic rural economy won’t just secure significant support, they may just win the election.”


Support a practical, investable and inclusive narrative for land use.

Sign-up to receive our newsletter

Newsletter Signup
Contribute for just £2.50 per week
Skip to content