Farming News - Central Association of Agricultural Valuers: Will a change of government really mean change?

Central Association of Agricultural Valuers: Will a change of government really mean change?


The change of government could have a significant impact on the countryside and rural businesses, if Labour's plans for new housing and infrastructure come to fruition. But the Party will face hefty opposition from those against development, so will need to act fast to push plans through, according to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV).


"This is a Government that, on the face of it, means to significantly increase the number of houses built and accelerate the infrastructure required for renewable energy and water," says Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the CAAV. "That will affect a lot of rural land, which may present opportunities for some and threats for others."


However, plans for many major developments have been seriously delayed or thrown out through objection and judicial review. Judicial review enables anti-development groups to claim that due procedures haven't been followed and so tie proposals up for years.


"So complicated is our administrative life that it's almost impossible to take a big decision," says Mr Moody. "We are now waiting to see if it is feasible for a government to make the kind of structural changes needed to achieve economic growth. If we don't do something radical, we will still be here in 30 years' time."


The acid test will be whether the Labour Government introduces changes to the judicial review process, to make it easier to proceed with the development it has promised. "The King's Speech on 17 July will almost certainly promise some sort of Planning Bill. It will be interesting to see if the briefing includes prospects to limit judicial reviews," he explains. "If not, Labour will have missed the moment – with its big opportunity to limit the rights of challenge. But I've seen no thinking as to how that will be done – and clearly some right of appeal must remain, so there's a balance to be found."


Mr Moody expects a draft National Planning Policy Framework by the end of July, giving the 2022 housing targets back to local authorities. Parallel to that, he envisages an expert working group to identify, within six months, sites for new towns. "That will be electorally interesting, because a lot of Labour back benchers now represent anti-development constituencies."


While the Labour manifesto contained precious little pertaining to agriculture, it has committed to decarbonise electricity by 2030. And that will require significant investment in renewable energy and associated infrastructure like pylons. It has also suggested strengthening compulsory purchase legislation, to pay less than market value for land – something which will not be popular with landowners. And proposals to build on the Green Belt will be similarly unpopular with many local voters.


And that's why it needs to act fast to limit powers of appeal, if it is going to have a chance to deliver against its promises, says Mr Moody. "If Labour really means what it says on planning and growth, this is what it needs to do. But we'll see whether it is willing to act hard enough and early enough to deliver its policies before resistance grows."


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