Monday, 16 October 2017 12:12

'Unique' plan champions rural potential

Written by  Ruralcity Media
'Unique' plan champions rural potential

Northumberland County Council is spearheading a new initiative to ensure rural areas have a voice in the UK’s economic future.

The local authority, in collaboration with Durham University's Institute of Local Governance, hopes to help shape emerging policy at local and national levels.

Council leader Peter Jackson suggested cities were often recognised as the economic powerhouses of the UK economy at the expense of rural areas.

He added: "There is often a lack of recognition of the significant contribution that rural areas make to local economies - both in their own right and in the more urban areas they envelop.

Brexit and the government's emerging industrial strategy was a chance to drive growth across the whole country, said Mr Jackson.

He said: "There is a unique opportunity to redress the balance and showcase the value of rural areas."

Mr Jackson said he had been talking to the government to further rural development in Northumberland.

The prospect of a North of Tyne devolution deal and a Borderlands growth deal were two examples where the project could ensure rural voices were heard.

The initiative got underway at a Hexham Mart meeting which brought together around 40 stakeholders, including business leaders, academics and public and third sector representatives.

Northumberland National Park chief executive Tony Gates said: "This is a timely initiative and a great opportunity for us to champion the resilience and innovative nature of our rural areas.

"It is time for us to develop a rural vision which has as much cohesive strength and impact as any city."

Stakeholders should focus on the positive assets of our rural areas, said Mr Gates, who chaired the meeting.

It was important to identify how rural areas contributed to the wider well-being of society – and invest in and exploit them appropriately.

Mr Gates said: "This is the beginning of an important conversation for our rural areas and I urge people to get involved."

Outcomes from the event will inform a six-month policy research commission by the Institute of Local Governance.

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