Henry Robinson: The 54,000 rural businesses keeping Yorkshire’s countryside alive

THE next few weeks offer ample opportunity for all in Yorkshire to celebrate rural life.

The three-day Great Yorkshire Show opened yesterday, showcasing the some of the very best local businesses and produce that Britain’s largest county has to offer.

Later on this month the CLA Game Fair will also be returning to Harewood House to celebrate all aspects of the countryside.

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From turbines to tomatoes, these setpiece events are a reminder of the importance of rural businesses in our towns and villages, without which they could not survive.

Too often the contribution that rural businesses make to our local and indeed national economy is overlooked compared to the astronomical sums that the largest of businesses make.

But recent data produced by the CLA has shown that the role that rural companies play in our regional and national economy cannot be understated. 

In Yorkshire and the Humber alone, 54,000 rural businesses are responsible for outputting a massive £17bn worth of goods and services, while employing more than 400,000 people.

That’s no small sum.

These businesses export across the globe and use state-of-the-art technologies to drive their business not just locally, but nationally and internationally as well.

Moreover, they do so in the face of challenges that their urban counterparts simply do not have to face, from basic infrastructure to reliable broadband and mobile phone signal.

Creating any successful business is challenging but in rural areas this problem is exacerbated simply by its location.

A lot has already been achieved to help these businesses but major challenges remain if we are to ensure businesses thrive in our towns and villages, creating jobs, homes and genuine economic growth. 

That is why it is crucial that rural businesses feel the benefit of the Government’s local economic plans such as the Northern Powerhouse, and MPs here in Yorkshire will be vital in making the case for this.

It is fundamental that the Government recognises that at the heart of thriving rural towns and villages are strong sustainable communities with affordable housing and businesses that provide jobs. 

To achieve this we will need to see a planning system that truly understands the needs of these local communities and allows those wanting to invest to do so with the backing of their community behind them through local plans.

Similarly, as they invest, they will need technology that can meet the needs of the 21st century. Yet today, 10-15 per cent of the country still does not have access to any broadband whatsoever, let alone reliable or fast speed.

That is why it is vital that whilst the Government is driving the installation of superfast and ultrafast broadband in our cities, energy and effort must still be paid to rolling out broadband to our hardest-to-reach areas. 

Importantly, rural businesses need faith in Government to invest, to train staff, take on apprenticeships and expand their businesses.

They need to know that Government is doing all it can to support them, ensuring that essential infrastructure for communications is provided and that they will not be unfairly penalised by the tax system for being a family run business.

That is why we are calling on MPs in Yorkshire to get their wellies on and spend time with landowners, farmers, and other rural businesses this summer to see for themselves the innovation, diversity and challenges faced by a multitude of different businesses across the Yorkshire countryside. 

Rural businesses in Yorkshire and Humber have come a long way. As businesses in Yorkshire and across England are for the first time more 
likely to start in rural rather than 
urban areas, the great hunger and appetite to ensure a thriving future for our towns, villages and communities must not be lost.

Henry Robinson is president of the Country Land and Business Association.