CLA North Regional Director Dorothy Fairburn - Let's see some action on Lancashire's broadband

PUBLISHED: 21:57 11 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:05 20 February 2013

CLA North Regional Director Dorothy Fairburn - Let's see some action on Lancashire's broadband

CLA North Regional Director Dorothy Fairburn - Let's see some action on Lancashire's broadband

CLA North Regional Director Dorothy Fairburn - Let's see some action on Lancashire's broadband

There is no doubt the Olympics have given the country a lift. But, as we get back to business, that lift will be sorely tested. Bank of England figures forecast no growth and the UKs trade deficit has widened spectacularly. And what is true for the general economy is, sadly, true for the rural economy, as the latest CLA/Smiths Gore Rural Economy Index (REI) shows.

The index make depressing reading. Over the last six months confidence and investment in rural businesses have dropped significantly. The REI points to four main factors - the continuing Eurozone crisis, higher input costs, the lack of infrastructure - such as poor broadband and mobile phone coverage and the lack of consumer confidence. Add in the continued inability to secure capital funding as the main reason for the lack of investment, and the economic picture is not rosy.

When you consider also the awful summer weather, rural businesses are taking a massive blow. The CLA calculates that over 240m was lost this year as a result of cancelled agricultural shows and equine events.

So how can confidence be restored? The CLA has been lobbying hard, locally and nationally, on a number of issues which could ease the burden on the rural economy. The situation where business rates are still imposed on properties that lie empty is costing landowners and farmers who have diversified thousands of pounds at a time when money is very tight. Clearly, the rules need to be relaxed.

If a business cannot connect to the web, it simply cannot compete. It is unacceptable that many areas in Lancashire have completely inadequate broadband connection. The process for putting in superfast broadband is too slow and mired in red tape.

If the rural economy is to grow it needs pro-growth policies. It requires local authorities to recognise that businesses do not want to tear up the countryside. The Governments latest attempt to shake up the archaic planning system is welcome and needs to be pushed through to local authority level.

It is not all doom and gloom but until there are clear signs of growth and until greater flexibility is introduced into policy making, fragile trading conditions will continue.

Dorothy Fairburn, Northern Regional Director, The Country Land and Business Association

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