Sustainable Rural Development Debate
28th February 2011
George Freeman lobbies the Government on the new Localism Bill to encourage the development of vibrant villages and help local councils to promote jobs, small businesses and affordable housing for local employees.
George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con): What steps the Government are taking to encourage local authorities to promote sustainable rural development through an integrated approach to employment and housing in rural communities. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill): The Government are committed to integrating national planning policy on the rural economy and housing in the streamlined national planning policy framework, which will include a presumption in favour of sustainable development. Through neighbourhood planning, we will also enable local authorities to have greater control over the delivery of the services, jobs and homes that their areas need.
George Freeman: After a decade of neglect under the previous Government, large swathes of rural Britain have suffered as post offices, pubs and small businesses have closed. Is it not key to rural communities to get jobs and small housing developments back into our rural villages, and will not the excellent Localism Bill help us to change the sustainability rules introduced by Labour that have made that impossible?
Robert Neill: The Bill will introduce neighbourhood planning measures and the community right to build, which will enable the incremental growth of villages. This will empower local communities, particularly in rural areas. Also, as I have said, we are revising the whole national planning priority framework, which will enable us to ensure that we have genuine sustainability-the right development in the right places to meet the right needs-while removing the top-down targets that have often resulted in inappropriate development being foisted on rural areas.