With over five million small businesses in the UK, there are thousands of firms operating in the countryside. But which county has been crowned the best place to run a rural business?
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), an organisation which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, sought to discover the area that best caters to rural businesses.
The association created a Rural Business County League Table that measures each English county based on its ability to help rural business owners.
A number of factors were assessed when trying to crown the best rural county for business, including the extent of broadband and mobile coverage; adoption of local plans by planning authorities; opportunities for development of rural skills; and entrepreneurial dynamism.
Henry Robinson, president of the CLA went into greater detail when asked about the county league table, stating that rural businesses owners need greater help from local councils in order to succeed.
‘‘In this table we shine a light on some of the main factors that can help a business succeed. The areas that top our list have rated most consistently across a range of factors.’’
“Top of the list is connectivity, almost any type of business can operate from a rural area if they have good quality mobile and internet connection. Unfortunately getting the coverage that a business needs remains a postcode lottery and too many businesses are losing out. We need government, councils and network providers to focus on delivery especially in our most remote areas.’’
One major challenge that faces many rural business owners is the lack of modern office facilities, something that Robinson aims to highlight.
“A growing business often needs space or to update existing buildings and facilities. This can be frustrated by poorly managed planning systems. Our table rates the performance of planning authorities on whether they have Local Plans in place and whether they are permitting or refusing applications to convert and change buildings,” continued Robinson.
And the winner is…
The CLA crowned Cheshire as the best county to run a rural business, with by Cumbria and Oxfordshire in equal second place. Gloucestershire came in fourth, followed by Surrey in fifth place.
The news came as no surprise to local business owners. Robert Parton, a CLA Member and owner of Aqueduct Marina at Church Minshull in Cheshire, explains how the local council has supported his business.
“We’ve had considerable support for our marina, especially from elected councillors who can see that we are a good, successful business and responsible employers who give back to the community.’’
‘‘The planners have tended to say yes to our developments once we have satisfied the – sometimes expensive – needs for environmental and landscape assessments.’’
“We’re in this for the long term, and I have every confidence that we can continue to develop in what will remain a thriving Cheshire rural business environment.”