Chalmers & Co, supported by Scottish Land & Estates, carried out a short, qualitative survey at the Haddington Show to garner some views on whether our rural communities have enough businesses and how local government and planning authorities could make it easier for new rural businesses to set up.
“As you’d expect when unemployment is high and so many people commute into our cities, a majority of respondents believe our rural communities do need more businesses,” says Francis Ogilvy, owner of Chalmers & Co.
“I was interested to hear that financial support seems to be the most popular request, followed by freeing up planning restrictions and encouraging a more flexible approach. The suggestion of involving farmers and landowners more actively in the planning process also makes sense.
“If communities and the Council are serious about rural employment, there needs to be a clear, integrated strategy to promote this and the county as being genuinely ‘open for business’.”
The survey suggested that taking a more flexible and open attitude to the development of sites for business use would make it easier for new businesses to set up in local communities. Targeting specific business sectors for rural business parks in a ‘cluster’ style of approach, as well as improving infrastructure, particularly broadband, was also proposed.
The respondents suggested that more farmers and rural landowners could be encouraged to come forward with land and buildings for business use by reducing regulation and being more flexible about the implementation of planning laws and guidelines.
It was not a surprise that the need for easier access to funding was a recurring theme; several respondents believed that more support through grants, tax incentives and funding was needed, particularly for start up businesses.
It was pointed out that there is a trend for jobs to return to the city centre away from business parks because of the better services, restaurants and ambience on offer.
“Having more rural businesses and local employment opportunities would help counter this trend,” concludes Francis Ogilvy at Chalmers & Co.