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Food: Strategy

House of Lords written question – answered on 28th June 2012.

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Photo of Lord Harrison Lord Harrison Chair, EU Sub Committee A - Economic and Financial Affairs

To ask Her Majesty's Government what support and guidance they are providing to local authorities to help them deliver food strategies.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I recognise the benefits that the marketing of regional and local food can bring to both producers and consumers alike and we want to encourage innovation in the sector. Recently, Defra and the Technology Strategy Board held an innovation summit to increase awareness of the innovation support mechanisms which are available to the food micro, small and medium sized businesses.

Defra support for local food chain initiatives in England has come mainly from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). This funding has supported initiatives including support for local food marketing linked to tourism activity, individual food producers and retail outlets, food hubs and farmers' markets. Support will continue to be available through the new RDPE nationally consistent schemes.

Last September, we published the Social Enterprise Action Research (SEAR) Report on Community Food Enterprises. This report (co-funded by Defra and the Cabinet Office) confirmed that across the country there are a range of local food groups of different sizes and membership emerging, often bringing together growers, processors and small food businesses. We welcome the development of these groups and the many benefits they can bring to producers and the local community, particularly to support local growth, but recognise that with the recent changes to the regional tier and closure of RDAs, it is for local communities and local economic partnerships to decide where and how initiatives of this nature develop.

It is for local authorities to take the strategic decisions that are best for them and their areas. The National Planning Policy Framework, which came into effect on 27 March, requires local planning authorities to take into account the economic and other benefits of the best and most versatile agricultural land when making planning decisions. The Government are considering how to take forward planning guidance across a range of matters. In deciding whether new guidance is needed to support operation of the framework, we will have regard to all the submissions about guidance which came in as part of the response to last year's consultation on national planning policy.

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