Rural businesses on the Isle of Wight could look forward to a much better new year, if national and local government took action to address some key issues for the countryside, says Country Land and Business Association (CLA) Isle of Wight branch chairman, Susie Sheldon.
Susie, who owns and manages Kings Manor Farm at Freshwater, has prepared 5 New Year resolutions for Government which, she says, would make a significant difference to the landowners, farmers and rural businesses represented by the CLA on the Island.
• Transport: we need the Council or Government to impose some form of public service obligation on ferry companies or provide an alternative. The disadvantages of our geographical location for farmers must be minimised by maintaining economic unrestricted routes to market. This is particularly important given the lack of an abattoir or official fallen stock scheme on the Isle of Wight.
We also need unrestricted local access via the Island road network – recent planning conditions restricting vehicle access times on designated routes must be discouraged.
• Broadband: the increase in local initiatives to improve Island broadband is welcome, but we need a campaign to ensure these include rural areas and more remote locations, rather than just achieving the required percentage of cover.
• Rights of Way: our footpaths and bridleways are great attraction for visitors, but currently there is no money available for any capital spend on footpaths within the Island. Any money the Council has available is almost certain to go to Coastal Access routes due to strong matched funding from central government. We need to emphasise to the Isle of Wight Council the importance of our footpaths, cycle tracks and bridleways. .
The CLA is also campaigning for a change to allow landowners to temporarily close or re- route footpaths (or temporarily ban dogs) during lambing and calving. This would be really helpful particularly when the footpath bisects a field. The problems caused by people with no understanding of the countryside, have led to considerable damage and loss.
• Energy Performance Certificates: we would like to see the removal of listed properties from regulations which require Energy Performance Certificates before residential buildings can be let. Too many old buildings have already been needlessly internally disfigured by the application of MEES/EEPC regulations.
• Business Property Relief on Holiday Lets: holiday lettings businesses are not generally considered as a trade and therefore do not qualify for business property relief – a change to this would be very welcome.