On Friday I visited the Sussex Produce Company in Steyning, a fantastic and
expanding business supplying local food.
For well over a year, its owner, Nick Hempleman, has been seeking planning permission to secure access for deliveries to the rear of his new premises. It’s up to local councils, not me, to judge the merits of applications like this. But why has this process taken so long?
This is only the most recent of far too many complaints which I’ve been hearing from local businesses about the glacial pace of planning decisions taken by our district councils.
We need small and medium sized businesses to thrive. That means central and local government having a pro-enterprise outlook. Their starting point should be: ‘How can we help this business to succeed?’ Instead, too often, we’re lining up the hurdles for them to jump over.
This isn’t about ripping up the planning rules or ignoring the protections for our countryside. It is about ensuring that the paperwork for businesses is minimised and decisions aren’t dragged out.
It’s still far easier to start a business in the United States than it is here. Recently the Prime Minister said that, just as the country pulled out all the stops to fight in the 1940s, we need the economic equivalent of a war footing today.
There are lots of good measures being taken to support businesses. Cuts in corporation tax and cancelling the fuel duty rise will all be a help.
And West Sussex County Council’s plans to roll out superfast broadband across the county, with the help of Government funding, will be important. A contract will be awarded by the summer.
We also need to get the banks lending again, while ensuring that we never again have to suffer the result of their collapse. That’s why I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement this week that banks which are unwilling to separate their retail and investment operations will be obliged to do so.
Financing a business is hard enough, without us adding to the burden. So if there are unnecessary laws to be repealed, regulations to be scrapped or inefficient agencies to jolt out of their complacency, let’s do it.
I’m planning a meeting for business owners in my constituency so they can spell out the problems. We need to get the economy moving – and be on the entrepreneurs’ side.
If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at email@example.com.