Experts urge more help for the rural economy

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More work needs to be done to realise the potential of rural economies in Yorkshire and the rest of England, experts claim.

Researchers at Newcastle University’s Centre for Rural Economy say the coalition Government’s recent Rural Economy Growth review does not go far enough and a “comprehensive plan” is needed to assist rural businesses.

The review contained measures such as the creation of Rural Growth Networks and plans to increase broadband and mobile coverage.

But the Centre for Rural Economy said it would like to see specific support programmes which are tailor made to reflect the unique circumstances and challenges faced by rural firms.

“Up until now rural areas have been neglected by urban focused economic policy,” said Jeremy Phillipson, of the rural economy land use programme (RELU).

“We would have liked to see more support for rural enterprise, tailored to reflect the diversity of economic activity in the UK countryside and the potential it offers.”

The Centre for Rural Economy said economic development programmes, particularly those focused on innovation were typically drawn up with an urban focus and with no regard to the potential of rural businesses.

“There are also many interdependencies and flows between rural and urban economies, and rural areas act as both incubators and catalysts for growth.

“The key to sustainable rural development included managing rural and urban connections in ways that capture value locally.

“Challenges and opportunities pertaining to environmental quality and land use, housing and infrastructure, and human resources, were also important.”

A Defra spokeswoman pointed to recent Government initiatives, including £100m to help rural businesses improve their skills, facilities and competitiveness, as well as the £15m Rural Growth Networks designed to help to help improve rural infrastructure.

“Businesses in rural areas suffer the same problems as other companies, but they also have their own unique challenges,” she said.

“These include limited broadband speeds, low mobile coverage, fragmented business networks and poor infrastructure. We are putting that right through a £165m package of support, announced in the Rural Economy Growth Review, that will provide the support needed to help businesses grow in rural areas.

“This includes Rural Growth Networks, further investment in small businesses through the Rural Development Programme for England and new grants for superfast broadband in some of the most remote areas.

“We are also providing funding to promote rural tourism, grants for renewable energy schemes and making it easier to ran businesses in old farm buildings.”