Saturday, 25 July 2009 15:39

Rural estates 'vital' to economy

Written by  Ruralcity Media

RURAL estates make a vital contribution to the countryside, says a study.

Country houses remain a tourist favouriteIn the East Midlands alone, rural estates support more than 18,000 jobs across a range of businesses, the study found.

The investigation was commissioned by the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA) and the Country Land & Business Association (CLA).

Carried out by economic development consultants Globe and property advisers Smiths Gore, it measured how rural estates benefit local communities and the wider economy.

The final document, Working positively with rural estates, was launched during the annual CLA Game Fair at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, on Saturday (25 July).

EMDA chief executive Jeff Moore said the agency had known estates made a vital and widespread contribution to rural life.

But it had been unaware how many rural estates there were in the region or how much they contributed to the economy, environment and wider society.

"This research was commissioned to answer some of these questions and to provide evidence to inform future potential public and private sector investments in these important assets," said Mr Moore.

Almost 300 rural estates in the East Midlands account for nearly a quarter (23%) of the region's land area, researchers found.

Together, they own a range of assets including agricultural land, houses, workspace and community facilities.

More than 70% of the estates are privately owned. Some 20% are owned by institutions or charities, with less than 10% falling under local authority or other public sector ownership.

CLA regional director Helen Woolley said: "Estates make a significant contribution to the rural economy in the East Midlands. They also play a role in supporting their local community.

"EMDA's study into the potential benefits of the public sector working more positively with rural estates will improve our ability to support our members in fulfilling both these roles."

The study found that 12 of the 20 top paid-for attractions in the East Midlands were estates or historic houses, which attracted around 2.4 million visitors in 2007.

Two thirds of the estates own and maintain community facilities, providing at least 166 village halls in the region.

Researchers also found an 81% growth in the area of workspace provided by estates over the last five years.

Estates 7,800 houses across the region and provide 13% of these houses at below market rents - equivalent to 27% of the social housing provision in their area.

But the study also identified a number of barriers which prevent estates from either growing as they would like or developing their assets.

These include slow broadband speeds, empty property taxes, complex planning processes and a lack of awareness of public sector funding opportunities.

EMDA has since pledged to take steps are taken to maximise the economic potential of rural estates as part of its vision to create a flourishing region.

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