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Farmers' forum building links
12:00am Thursday 18th October 2012 in News
LOCAL farmers met near Whitchurch to help sow seeds of understanding.
And issues that can prevent businesses from thriving in the countryside were top of the agenda for the rural economy summit hosted by a farm in Hurstbourne Priors.
Bringing together local farmers, rural business and rural support organisations, including the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and National Farmers’ Union (NFU), and councillors, planners and economic development officers, the event was held at New Barn Farm Estate.
Organised by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council working together with the CLA, the discussion session was aimed at developing mutual understanding.
Farmer Philip White, who hosted the meeting, showed the group the new buildings that were crucial to the success of his business while Mike Rushworth, managing director of Vitacress, took the group on a tour of the watercress beds and hosted a discussion on planning at the Vitacress offices.
Councillor Donald Sherlock, the borough council’s Cabinet member for planning, said: “It is often difficult to strike the balance between protecting the countryside and supporting the rural economy, whose concerns we understand.
“This meeting was a good opportunity to develop a more open relationship between rural businesses and the council as the planning authority and discuss how we need to work together to support rural businesses to have a positive impact on their communities.”
Tim Brock, CLA acting regional director, said: “This meeting provided a real catalyst for discussion and debate and was beneficial for all parties involved.
“It is clear that communication is key for a smooth running planning system which in turn will boost the rural economy.
“I hope meetings such as this, facilitated by the Country Land and Business Association, will start to bring positive changes for both the local council and rural business owners.”
John Jervoise, CLA Hampshire committee member, added: “The rural economy is not only significant locally and nationally but has considerable opportunities to grow and create jobs.
“The two greatest constraints are planning and broadband.
“Events like this increase understanding of the issues around obtaining planning approvals, but the reality is if we want more jobs then flexibility in planning has to be accepted.
This can and should go alongside careful siting and good landscaping.”