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I have been to a DEFRA meeting tonight where we poor farmers were encouraged to formulate business plans and apply for grants to diversify. There was a team of about 6 DEFRA officials, someone from their "sister" organisation ADER, plus two Councillors from East Herts. It was the usual talk/workshop/Power point/ summary sort of presentation.

Of course, everything foundered on the wretched rock of Planning Permission. The (it must be admitted, absolutely charming) DEFRA officials were sympathetic but couldn't offer any concrete advice or help. I asked if DEFRA was working at Gov level to change the directives on Structure and District local plans but of course the answer was no.

Therefore, although there is literally billions on offer to British farmers to enable them to take grants of up to 50% to pay for farm diversification in practice it is almost impossible because of the prevailing planning legislation and the presumption against development in any rural area, aside from the Green Belt problem. Therefore, the money is going to French and German farmers. All DEFRA could offer was a day of free help from a Charity called Planning Aid!

All this was sponsored by AGRE (Action for Growth in the Rural Economy) which is presently sending most of us on free computer courses at the local College!! So my emails should improve.....

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