Rural enterprise has a crucial role in providing food, jobs and recreational activities. We must stimulate production, encourage employment and allow house-building in rural areas. Otherwise we risk turning our villages into little more than barren commuter outposts.
Unnecessary bureaucracy and petty regulation have made remote post offices, village shops, petrol stations and other rural ventures increasingly vulnerable. At the same time, the growing number of second homes, together with long distance commuting, has inflated house prices to the extent that local people are often unable to purchase properties within their own area.
Young people are all too often forced to move out of villages because of the lack of affordable housing, the need to find work and the lack of good public transport. The New Party’s policies on housing and finance are strongly geared towards reducing inflationary pressures in the housing market. We would remove planning restrictions on new housing in specific rural areas so long as developers can also provide new jobs. We would also reduce the barriers to building new homes in remote rural areas to underpin the wider rural economy.
Our planning proposals include the requirement that new housing developments over a certain size must be linked to commercial activity. This would ensure that rural housing developments boosted the local economy rather than the weekend commuter market. The New Party will remove as many unnecessary regulations as possible and we will protect rural businesses from over-zealous planning authorities.
Our proposals on transport include the re-opening of railway lines and stations wherever possible. We will also ensure that affordable bus services in rural areas run at times that fit in with working hours so that young people are at least able to stay in their home village. Many rural schools have been closed in recent decades. However, these schools have a social as well as educational role and this is particularly important at the primary level. In line with our proposals to de-regulate education, we would encourage any viable proposal by local people to re-establish local primary schools in their area.
We recognise that rural crime has become a major problem and we will require police forces to give proper priority to rural policing. Where there are no police officers based in the locality, we would make provision for special constables and local volunteers to help out.