ISSUES that can prevent businesses from thriving in the countryside were top of the agenda for a rural economy summit hosted by a farm in north Hampshire.

Bringing together local farmers, rural business and rural support organisations, including the Country Land and Business Association and National Farmers’ Union, and councillors, planners and economic development officers, the event was held at New Barn Farm Estate, Hurstbourne Priors.

Organised by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, working together with the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the discussion session was aimed at developing mutual understanding.

Philip White, who farms at New Barn Farm Estate, showed the group the new buildings that are crucial to the success of the business. Also on the agenda was a tour of nearby St Mary’s Bourne-based Vitacress and its watercress beds.

Councillor Donald Sherlock, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Cabinet member for planning, said: “It’s often difficult to strike the balance between protecting countryside and supporting the rural economy. “This was a good opportunity to discuss the rural businesses and how planning can support them to have a positive impact on their communities.”

CLA acting regional director Tim Brock said: “This meeting provided a real catalyst for discussion and debate and was beneficial for all parties involved. “It is clear that communication is key for a smooth-running planning system which in turn will boost the rural economy. “I hope meetings such as this, facilitated by the Country Land and Business Association, will start to bring positive changes for both the local council and rural business owners.”

Herriard Estates and CLA Hampshire committee member John Jervoise said: “The rural economy is not only significant locally and nationally but has considerable opportunities to grow and create jobs. “The two greatest constraints are planning and broadband. Events like this increase understanding of the issues around obtaining planning approvals, but the reality is if we want more jobs, then flexibility in planning has to be accepted. This can, and should, go alongside careful siting and good landscaping.”