Tory voters in the countryside feel “frustrated and angry” with the current Coalition government and are now planning to vote UKIP because their votes are being “taken for granted”.
And they fear too that the government is not listening to their concerns on issues like planning, hunting and the HS2 high speed train proposals with the result that Conservative support from people living in the countryside has fallen by more than a fifth since 2010.
A survey of 1,000 of the Countryside Alliance’s 100,000 members has revealed that only 66 per cent of them are planning to vote Conservative at the next election, a figure significantly down from almost nine in ten when the Tories were in opposition.
“They feel frustrated and angry with the Coalition, and are concerned that the Tory Party is focusing on urban issues,” Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, tells the Western Daily Press.
“These are people have spent a lot of time campaigning on issues such as hunting and HS2 and feel they are not being listened to, that they are being taken for granted. They don’t understand why so much is being spent on High Speed 2, they are very concerned by the Government’s tone on house building and they want the hunting ban repealed.”
The voting intentions of Alliance members taking part in the survey showed that 66 per cent are planning to vote Conservative, 13 per cent UKIP, four per cent Liberal Democrat and two per cent Labour.
Rural voters feel increasingly alienated on key issues, according to Mr Bonner.
The Coalition Agreement includes a pledge to give MPs a free vote on a full repeal of the fox hunting ban as soon as parliamentary time is available. But David Cameron has made clear that it cannot guarantee that would happen before the end of the current Parliament in 2015.
They are also concerned by the Government’s plans for a £42 billion high speed rail line, which will go through traditionally Tory rural heartlands. Tory MPs and ministers have raised concerns about whether the route is needed.
And they are also worried by the government’s plans to build hundreds of thousands of new homes, many of which will be in rural areas. Nick Boles, the planning minister, attracted controversy when he said that “houses are better than green fields.”
A previous study for the Countryside Alliance found that only 16 per cent of those living in rural areas thought the Coalition had helped them. Of the remainder, 60 per cent thought the Government was ignoring those in rural areas through its policies, and 20 per cent said they did not know.
Two–thirds thought elected politicians were more interested in the views and values of people living in big towns and cities than those of people whose homes are in countryside villages.
Those living in rural areas were also most likely to disapprove of Government policies concerning fuel (70 per cent), transport and rural services (52 per cent), and planning (51 per cent).
New legislation to boost office and warehouse projects is on its way
Office and warehouse developers will be able to bypass local planning authorities in a bid to speed up schemes under legislation being laid before Parliament this week..
It will result in developers being able to apply direct to the area Planning Inspectorate, which will guarantee quicker decisions being made as well as saving thousands of pounds in planning fees.
“For he purposes of economic growth we need these decisions to be made quickly and not gummed up for lack of resource in a local planning department,” Nick Boles, the planning minister, tells Estates Gazette magazine.
Although no minimum threshold will apply, the government does not expect to deal with schemes of less than 430,000 square feet.
Major leisure, sports, manufacturing and conference schemes are also included in the legislation, which does not extend to either housing or retail projects.
“Whole it is perfectly reasonable to expect local authorities to cope in a timely way with housing developments, it is not reasonable to expect them to cope with these very big rare projects, but the Planning Inspectorate has the resources to do so,” added Mr Boles.
“For developers, the big advantage will be access to a clear planning process over-seen by an objective, non-political body,” said Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation.
Stuart Robinson, head of UK planning for CPRE, pointed out that there was “a certain irony” in implying that councils are not in a position to determine big schemes when “the government has not yet made a decision on extending Heathrow.”
There is also one fear for developers – there is no appeal process under the new legislation if the Planning Inspectorate reject a development.