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Guildford Borough Council

Submission Local Plan: Strategy and Sites - Main Modifications

Submission Local Plan: Strategy and Sites - Main Modifications - Part 1: Policies

Policy E5: Rural economy


4.4.43 The NPPF states that planning policies should support a prosperous rural economy that enables the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business in rural areas.

4.4.44 The rural areas of Guildford borough are defined as the areas outside Ash, Tongham and Guildford urban areas. This means the rural area is large and includes a large variety of different locations such as villages, hamlets and even some of the strategic employment sites. As a result the rural policy relates to a diverse number of places in the borough and wide range of land-uses.

4.4.44a A third of borough residents live in rural areas. The rural wards account for 25 per cent of all employment in the borough, partly influenced by some of the strategic employment sites but also by a large number of small businesses. In addition to farming, food and tourism the range of jobs and businesses is extensive including shops, workshops, distribution, ICT, childcare and education, residential homes, manufacturing, property, corporate headquarters and offices. Internet business and working from home is increasing. This shows the diversity of the borough's rural economy and the Council supports the view that all forms of business can be appropriate in the countryside. Small rural businesses need to be supported so they can remain in rural areas as they start to expand as this plays an important role in the development of the rural economy.

4.4.45 About 45 per cent of our construction jobs and enterprises are in the rural areas, as well as over 25 per cent of all manufacturing, commercial and other service jobs. The rural wards are home to a number of the Strategic Employment Sites including The Pirbright Institute (Pirbright), Henley Business Park (Normandy) and Quadrum Park, The Guildway, Astolat, Peasmarsh and River Wey (Shalford).

4.4.46 The Council will encourage rural enterprise through the planning process and, where feasible, contribute to projects promoted by the Surrey Countryside Rural Economic Forum and the Surrey Hills Board. The Council will work with our partners the Guildford Business Forum Rural Group. Rural and agricultural initiatives that improve local services and facilities and contribute to the rural economy will be supported. The creation of new business opportunities must be balanced with the needs of the farming industry. Farming is an important contributor to the rural economy; it can help to maintain the landscape, which helps to attract tourists, and helps to produce food locally.

4.4.47 In urban areas, the NPPF directs development for main town centre uses (see glossary) to town, district and local centres. This is known as the sequential approach. To support the rural economy, national policy is more flexible, allowing small-scale developments in rural areas without applying the sequential approach.

Policy E5: Rural economy

(1) In order to support economic growth in rural areas, which will create jobs and prosperity, a positive approach to sustainable new development will be taken in Guildford borough. To promote a strong rural economy:

(a) the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business and enterprise in rural areas will be supported, through conversion of existing buildings and provision of well-designed new buildings of appropriate scale, provided they are in accordance with green belt policy and other policies in the plan

(b) the development and diversification of agricultural and other land-based rural businesses will be supported, and

(c) the retention and development of accessible local services and community facilities in ourthe inset and identified villages, such as local shops, meeting places, sports venues, open space, cultural buildings, public houses and places of worship, which respect the character of the countryside, will be supported.

(2) The Council will work with our partners at Surrey County Council and the Enterprise M3 LEP to support and improve the provision of internet services where needed in rural areas and enhance digital inclusion in such areas. This will help to retain and promote services and types of business, including traditional agriculture, and help to create more sustainable villages. The Council will also work with partners to support the provision of small-scale business incubation centres in rural areas.

(3) Agricultural land will be protected as set out in national policy and the economic and other benefits of the best and most versatile agricultural land will be taken into account.

(4) To support the rural economy, national policy is more flexible, allowing small-scale development for main town centre uses (see glossary) without applying the sequential approach. The sequential approach will not be applied to applications for small scale rural offices or other small scale rural development.

(5) Proposals that would result in the loss of shops and services that provide for everyday needs (within Use Class A1) located in rural areas but outside of Local and District Centres, will only be acceptable if evidence is provided of active and comprehensive marketing of the site for its current use for a minimum of 12 months prior to submission of a planning application.



4.4.48 In Guildford borough small-scale developments means those of less than 100 sq m (gross).

4.4.48a Evidence of active and comprehensive marketing is defined in Appendix A2.

Reasoned justification

4.4.49 Farming and forestry are the traditional rural employers, and those involved in them are key to management of the countryside. The industries continue to evolve and whilst employment is declining, the way these industries are run is changing. In general terms farms need larger business units and larger buildings to be viable and cope with the larger volumes of product, larger equipment and statutory storage regulations. The Council will support the provision of new and larger buildings, which are essential to farming and forestry. This will help the businesses to remain competitive and viable and also improve our food security.

4.4.50 In view of the changing circumstances facing agriculture it is important that farmers are able to diversify their activities to supplement their incomes. However, this needs to be managed in a sustainable way that preserves or enhances the character of the surrounding countryside. Diversification can support the viability of agricultural holdings and will be supported where it contributes to the retention of agriculture as part of the rural economy. Schemes should, however, be developed in the context of farm development programmes which meet the business needs of the enterprise, provide for the ongoing management of the land and buildings, are sustainable and are consistent with safeguarding countryside character. Current diversification in the Surrey Hills includes the High Clandon Estate Vineyard, Albury Organic Vineyard, Silent Pool gin distillery and Tillingbourne brewery.

4.4.51 Provision and take-up of reliable and high speed broadband has been a major issue reported by rural businesses in certain parts of the borough. Slow broadband and inadequate and slow mobile phone coverage are constraints to economic development. Extending the reach of fibre broadband is key for the viability of rural businesses and will also benefit rural residents. Many businesses are unable to operate competitively without a good internet service. Currently the poorly served areas of the borough includes parts of Effingham, Pirbright, Pilgrims, Tillingborne and Shalford. Extending superfast broadband is one of the priorities set out in the Corporate Strategy.

4.4.51a In May 2017 the Council adopted a new Rural Economic Strategy aimed at protecting our natural and built heritage, sustaining our rural communities, and enabling enterprise and diversification in our changing countryside. This Rural Economic Strategy focuses on five policy priorities for the period 2017 to 2022:

  • Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities
  • Infrastructure for Enterprise
  • Landscape Management and Countryside Vision
  • Green Space, Health and Wellbeing for Better Quality of Life
  • Energy Policy, Generation and Supply

The Strategy covers the River Wey catchment and will link Parish Councils, businesses and other local organisations in rural Guildford, for example, Surrey Hills AONB, Surrey Wildlife Trust, University of Surrey, and also the neighbouring boroughs of Waverley and Woking. Key to the strategy is continuous engagement between all these organisations on aspects of policy, planning and delivery. Delivery of the Strategy will be monitored by Guildford Business Forum's Rural Group whose members include environmentalists, farmers, landowners and producers.

4.4.51b Support for the rural economy is key for the Council and Enterprise M3 LEP who recognise its significance for attracting business investment to the area. The borough's rural areas are potential areas for business and in the future they may play a significant role in supporting the health of the Guildford economy. The Council will also work with our partners including Enterprise M3 to support the provision of small-scale business incubation centres in rural areas. These provide low cost, flexible office space for start-up businesses and nomad working and may be able to provide faster internet than at residential properties along with the benefits of interacting with other local entrepreneurs.

4.4.52 Enterprise M3 LEP has established a Rural Action Group to promote the economic interests of the rural areas which comprise the larger part of the sub-region. The action group brings together public, private and not-for-profit stakeholders to develop and recommend policies and action plans to achieve this and to provide information into the Local Enterprise Partnership Board to support their decision making and policies. The Rural Action Group will promote viable and vibrant sustainable rural communities across the LEP area. The Council will work with this group and other organisations to secure long term growth of the economy and the labour force in the rural areas, whilst also promoting sustainable management of the countryside and protecting landscapes.

Key Evidence

  • Employment Land Needs Assessment (Guildford Borough Council, 2017)
  • Guildford Borough Economic Strategy 2013 - 2031 (Guildford Borough Council, 2013)
  • Guildford Borough Corporate Plan 2018 - 2023 (Guildford Borough Council, 2018)
  • Guildford Borough Rural Economic Strategy 2017-2022 (Guildford Borough Council, 2017)
  • A Rural Statement for Surrey (Surrey Countryside and Rural Enterprise Forum, 2016)
  • Rural Planning Policy Statement (Enterprise M3 LEP Rural Action Group, 2015)


Monitoring Indicators



Data source

Number of sq m of B class floorspace permitted and completed in rural wards

Overall net increase of 36,100 - 43,700 sq. m B1a and B1b use class floorspace to 2034 in the whole borough

Overall net increase of 3.7 - 4.1 ha industrial land (B1c, B2 and B8) to 2034 in the whole borough

Planning applications and appeals and building completions data

Number of agricultural planning permissions refused

Permit all applications for essential agricultural development

Planning applications and appeals