Thumbs up for rural planning workshop

A workshop organised by Winchester City Council for rural businesses and landowners who are thinking about applying for planning permission met with a warm reception from delegates last week.

The key note speaker, George Hollingbery, the Member of Parliament for Meon Valley, told the audience what is happening at a national level to cut red tape and help local businesses prosper.  The Leader of Winchester City Council, Cllr George Beckett, explained how the Council works to support the local economy.  Delegates then heard how the Council is improving its planning policies and processes to make them more ‘business friendly’ in general, and in particular more sympathetic to the needs and pressures of rural businesses.

During the event, planners used case studies to explain what is involved in making a planning application and how proposals are assessed.  They stressed that whilst every effort would be made to foster business growth and enterprise, this could not be at the expense of the special qualities of our market towns and rural areas.

Event organiser Alison Woods, from the city council’s Economic Development team, said,

The event was fully booked with nearly 100 delegates.  We even had businesses from across the district borders - who were impressed by the agenda and looking for planning guidance - asking to attend.”

Simon Finch, Head of Planning Management at Winchester City Council, said,

This workshop is one of a number of improvements the Council has introduced to help rural businesses with the planning process.  The council is also training two existing senior planners to act as Rural Business Advisors.  In addition, a new easy to follow guide, Planning Guidance for Rural Businesses, was launched at the event and explains how the process works. A copy of the guide can be downloaded at:

Cllr Robert Humby, Winchester City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning and Enforcement, added,

Winchester City Council has worked really hard to ensure that planning policy and practice isn’t seen as a barrier for rural business.  We have involved businesses in helping us to review and redesign the way we do things, and we hope they will be starting to feel the benefits of their involvement.  This doesn’t mean we can say ‘yes’ to every business application, but it will mean that we will strive to build long term relationships with our business customers so that we can understand each other’s point of view.  We will continue to listen to what rural businesses tell us and to make improvements to the service we provide.”