Queen’s Speech: Landowners welcome broadband universal service obligation but warn on harms of taking land by compulsion

The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and other rural businesses, has set out its views on the Government’s legislative programme saying that it has sweeping implications for rural businesses.

Measures announced include:

> A Digital Economy Bill – which will, amongst other measures

enshrine the universal service obligation for broadband in law – this will mean that all homes and businesses wherever located will have a right to broadband coverage of at least 10 megabits per second by 2020.

impose new rules on how communications infrastructure providers have access to land for siting their equipment under a revised ‘Electronics Communications Code’.

> A Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill which will, amongst other measures

Further strengthen the neighbourhood planning process

Tackle the overuse, and in some cases misuse, of planning conditions so as to ensure new developments are not subject to unnecessary delays

Privatise the Land Registry

Compulsory purchase – establish a clear, new statutory framework, for agreeing compensation based on the fundamental principle that compensation should be based on market value of the land in the substance of the scheme.

> Local Growth and Jobs Bill which will, amongst other measures

Allow local authorities to retain 100% of their business rates

Strengthen local councils’ powers to cut business rates for local firms and give combined authority Mayors the power to raise additional funding for infrastructure

> Draft Law of Property Bill

To implement the Law Commissions report ‘Making land work: easements, covenants and ‘profits-a-pendre’ – to simplify the law around land ownership

> Wales Bill which will, amongst other measures

Devolve powers on energy, transport and elections

CLA President Ross Murray said: “Over coming months MPs and Peers will be debating measures that have big implications for our rural economy, from housing, to internet and compulsory purchase of land. The CLA will be at the heart of these debates setting out our views and promoting our members interests.

“We welcome the confirmation that we will finally get the legal guarantee of internet connection for all premises in rural areas that we have campaigned to secure for so many years. It is time to end the discrimination felt in rural areas and we will work to ensure this law delivers for rural communities.

“Measures in the Digital Economy Bill and Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill both extend powers to take land through compulsory purchase.

“In different ways they give mobile companies or infrastructure providers the power to acquire land or gain access to land by compulsion. The justification is to make it cheaper and easier for them to do so. Our overriding concern is that compulsory purchase should be a measure of last resort, and where it is used it should be scrupulously fair and with the interests of those that are having land taken off them preserved. As both Bills progress through Parliament we will be fighting to preserve these principles.”

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