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The use of rural buildings for business in the countryside

Author John Bentley and Carolin Stanford-Billington, Harper Adams University College
Summary Government planning policy favours re-use of rural buildings for business use to boost the rural economy and farm diversification. At the same time rural areas are increasingly popular as business locations. The process is seen by the government as aiding sustainable development, as it re-uses existing buildings and fosters the rural economy: however, this proposition is debatable as there is a potential conflict with Government policy on sustainable travel and there is the question of whether rural building conversions actually provide employment for people in local rural areas (as opposed to encouraging people to travel out from settlements to the rural location).

At the same time Government policy is to regenerate urban areas and market towns, concentrate development in settlements and reduce development on greenfield sites. There is therefore the question of how the re-use of rural business premises fit-in with these Government policies. It could be argued as to whether there a conflict between urban and rural planning policies and whether they are being co-ordinated.

This paper examines these issues. The findings are based on a questionnaire sent to businesses based in converted rural buildings. The paper looks at the reasons for firms choosing rural locations in converted buildings. It also seeks to examine planning issues and the sustainability of such businesses, in terms of travel and employment patterns.

The general findings are that good environment, rural position and proximity to the entrepreneurs’ home are very important factors in firms selecting such a location. However, the paper’s findings also question whether such development is consistent with government policy on sustainable development and regeneration.

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