Today the government has published its first Rural Productivity Plan to grow the rural economy.

Villages and towns in England’s rural communities will be allowed to build starter homes for local residents as part of plans set out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss in the Government’s first ever Rural Productivity Plan.

The plan, announced as latest figures show thousands of people are moving to rural areas, will set out measures to boost the rural economy by investing in education and skills, increasing wages, improving infrastructure and connectivity, and simplifying planning laws for rural businesses and communities.

Measures covered by the plan include:

  • Amending planning rules to allow Starter Homes to be built on Rural Exception Sites for the first time. This will allow local areas to allocate more sites for Starter Homes specifically for people who already live in the area, or have an existing family or employment connection to the area.

  • Working with private sector providers to assess alternative solutions to deliver broadband further into rural areas.

  • Improving rural transport connections by feeding the views of rural stakeholders into the second Road Investment Strategy for 2020 to 2025.

  • Ensuring fairer funding for rural schools and work with schools and colleges that are currently underperforming or ‘coasting’ to ensure that, where appropriate, they are entering into collaborative arrangements and formal partnerships to raise standards.

  • Encouraging rural Local Authorities and providers to make innovative early expressions of interest to deliver 30 hours of free childcare to working parents.

  • Setting a new ambition to provide high speed broadband to businesses in all Enterprise Zones in rural areas.

  • Considering proposals for increased devolution of powers and greater freedoms to maximise economic growth in areas across the country that put in place strong and accountable local governance.

  • Improving connectivity by providing improved transport connections for businesses and passengers in local areas with fifteen brand new routes on the Regional Air Connectivity funding shortlist.

Together these steps will boost productivity and ensure the countryside becomes an even more attractive place for people to live, work, start a business and bring up a family.

Commenting on the launch, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said:

For too long the British economy has been reliant on businesses based in our cities and towns. We want to create a One Nation economy that taps into the potential of all parts of our country.

That means setting the right conditions for rural communities and businesses to thrive, investing in education and skills, improving rural infrastructure, and allowing rural villages to thrive and grow.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss added:

Our rural areas could be generating billions more for the UK and providing many thousands of new jobs – this plan will make that a reality, unleashing the full potential of our countryside to create a true One Nation economy.

We’re connecting the countryside to make it just as simple to run a business from Cornwall as it is in Camden. But it’s not just about transport and technology. Our plan will help us create thriving towns and villages where generations of families can open and expand their businesses, buy a home and educate their children at first class schools.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:

We’re determined to ensure anyone who works hard and aspires to own their own home has the opportunity to do so – whether they live in cities, towns or rural communities.

But all too often young people find themselves exiled from the place they grew up as they are forced to move away to find a home of their own.

That’s why we’re putting power directly in the hands of rural councils to give the go-ahead for new Starter Homes in their area so local young first-time buyers can continue to be a vital part of their communities.

To unleash the full potential of rural areas and improve the quality of life for people living in some of the most beautiful parts of the country, the government will deliver:

  • Strong conditions for rural business growth – cutting red tape, including 20,000 farm inspections to be cut this Parliament, and cuts to corporation tax.

  • Better mobile coverage – ensuring 98% indoor coverage for 4G by 2017.

  • Modern transport connections – improving connectivity of rural areas including through the £15 billion Road Investment Strategy and the £38 billion rail investment programme.

  • Access to Enterprise Zones in rural areas – giving 100% business rate discounts on businesses located within them, saving each company up to £275,000 over five years.

  • High-quality education – raising standards through fairer funding and working with underperforming schools.

  • Expanded apprenticeships in rural areas – tripling the number of food and farming apprenticeships from 6,000 to 18,000.

  • Extensive, fast and reliable broadband – making superfast broadband available for 95% of UK premises by 2017 and working with providers to address challenges reaching the final 5%.

  • Improved planning and better regulation for businesses – supporting delivery of Starter Homes on rural exception sites and reviewing the planning constraints affecting rural areas.

  • More devolution of powers – calling on local areas to propose what further powers they would like to see handed to them.

  • Housing for future generations – increasing the availability of housing in rural areas to ensure our villages thrive.

Further information

The Government’s full 10 Point Rural Productivity Plan has been published.

See also Defra policy brief: How increased connectivity is boosting economic prospects of rural areas, December 2014.

Starter homes guidance, March 2015.

Net internal migration is measured at local authority level, and the latest figures from the Statistical Digest of Rural England show net migration to predominantly rural areas in 2013/14 of 60,600.

The shortlist of new international and domestic air routes for smaller airports is also being announced by the Government today. Successful routes from this latest stage of the Regional Air Connectivity Fund will provide improved transport connections for business and leisure passengers from their local areas. Airports that have reached this stage serve the Northern Powerhouse, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For further information please contact Department for Transport press office on 0207 944 3118.