Thursday, 05 February 2015 12:10

Communities welcome 'rural proofing' review

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Communities welcome 'rural proofing' review

RURAL communities have welcomed an independent review of the government's approach to 'rural proofing'.

The review, conducted by Lord Cameron of Dillington, makes a series of recommendations, including setting up a new rural proofing forum.

The recommendation was welcomed by Action with Communities in Rural England, the charity which represents England's network of 38 rural community councils.

If implemented, the recommendations would go a long way to ensuring the impact of policies on rural residents was considered at the heart of government, said ACRE.

But the charity warned that the government must to continue its dialogue with rural stakeholders to ensure the voices of rural communities were heard.

The ACRE network has a long history of working with Defra's Rural Communities Policy Unit, helping it to gauge how national policies will play out in a rural setting.

ACRE chief executive Janice Banks, who contributed to the review, said: "There is no doubt that rural proofing can and should enable policies to be developed that impact positively on both urban and rural communities.

"Rural communities have a legacy of resilience and self-support, and will always make the best of the opportunities afforded them."

But while the issues faced in rural areas were largely the same as faced by urban, Ms Banks said the solutions and policy interventions could often be very different.

"Ensuring rural proofing is undertaken at an early stage in policy development means that work is completed more quickly and robustly, enabling the benefits to impact positively across all areas when the policy is implemented.

"Therefore, we very much agree with Lord Cameron that there is a clear opportunity for rural proofing to be applied more systematically in government departments."

Ms Banks said ACRE welcomed the establishment of an inter-departmental rural oversight group to underpin the benefits of early consideration of impact in rural areas.

"We would also endorse the recommendation for the creation of a permanent forum for discussion of rural proofing, at Cabinet level.

"This would ensure that rural proofing and all the benefits it brings are at the heart of the government, giving more confidence to the complete process."

Lord Cameron is also recommending an interactive, online rural proofing forum that would allow stakeholders to contribute to policy development, which would create a place to describe best practice, share evidence and discuss ideas.

Ms Banks said: "While we welcome any new forum for the discussion of ideas, policymakers need to continue meeting with rural organisations to make sure they have a detailed understanding of what is happening at the grass roots."

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  • Guest (Graham Townsend)

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    Perhaps Lord Cameron's report was drafted before the government's announcement on affordable housing thresholds was made. It is a classic example of Westminster/Whitehall not understanding (or worse still not caring about) the impact of policies on rural areas. Maybe it wasn't on the list of key topics discussed with DCLG because it had been decided at consultation stage that no impact assessment was needed - for which omission the changes should surely be revoked and reconsidered.

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