Thursday, 09 September 2010 08:26

Network welcomes rural agenda

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Policies still too often overlook rural needs Policies still too often overlook rural needs

ENGLAND'S biggest rural partnership has called for the implementation of recommendations to realise the countryside's economic potential.

The Rural Services Network made the call in response to the launch of an Agenda for Change, published by the Commission for Rural Communities.

Network chief executive Graham Biggs said the agenda recognised the countryside’s vital role in Britain’s economic recovery.

But more must be done by all levels of government if the countryside was to realise its full potential, he warned.

“The countryside is a living and working part of the British economy and we welcome the publication of this timely document.”

The agenda’s overriding recommendation for policy-makers to pay more attention to meeting rural needs was particularly welcome, said Mr Biggs.

“This document must not be read and then placed on a shelf to gather dust. Its recommendations must be implemented in full and as soon as possible.”

Mr Biggs praised the recommendation for the planning system to support rather than frustrate sustainable economic growth in rural areas.

He said: “Planners are too often driven by urban orientated guiding principles and a system which discriminates against rural communities.

“These all mean that most rural centres - including many market towns - are denied the opportunity to respond to changing circumstances.

“As a result their functionality is compromised, they become unbalanced and unsustainable.”

Mr Biggs also welcomed calls for local authorities and other public bodies to responding positively to community-led plans.

The network had long supported the concept of community led planning and considered it to be the cornerstone of the government's Big Society.

“It is of fundamental importance that government, at all levels, responds positively to the communities' aspirations as expressed through a properly conducted, fully inclusive, community led planning exercise, particularly when preparing their own strategic plans.”

Mr Biggs said he was pleased the document echoed a call in the network’s own manifesto, A New Agenda for Rural Britain, for better rural broadband.

The roll-out of an adequately future-proofed digital infrastructure is vital to the future of the rural economy and must not bypass the countryside.

“Without it, rural areas risk being left in the slow lane when they could be contributing even more to the national recovery.”

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