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Councils team up to woo rural youngsters

Two rural councils have teamed up with two national park authorities in a bid to persuade youngsters to continue living in the countryside.

Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund have awarded Craven and South Lakeland District Councils £1.34m for the innovative initiative.

The Great Place: Crossing the Watersheds scheme aims to retain and attract younger people and business to the area by developing more creative and cultural opportunities.

The project is being led by Craven District Council, in partnership with South Lakeland District Council (SLDC), and the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Park authorities.

Simon Myers, Craven District Council’s lead member for Enterprising Craven, said the project would “drive forward the future economy of our rural communities”.

Local landscapes had inspired people past and present – but the local population was ageing and 44% more 16 to 34-year-olds were needed just to reach the national average.

“Without more younger people and young families we will have fewer village schools, depriving rural areas of cultural, community and service delivery centres and a lack of skilled employees for local businesses.

“New ways of working, new business models and new creative businesses will benefit all members of our rural communities.

“We need to retain and bring in a new, younger generation with fresh ideas, to add value to our economy inspired by our great natural, heritage and cultural assets.”

Those supporting the scheme believe culture and creativity can act as a catalyst for change and attract younger people to the local area.

Chris Hogg, SLDC’s portfolio holder for culture and wellbeing, originally encouraged the two councils to promote a partnership bid.

Mr Hogg said: “This funding is excellent news for South Lakeland and Craven. It has been a long journey and something I've been determined we should be leading the way on.”

The project will be focused on the rural corridor linking Skipton in the south and Grasmere in the north, including market towns and rural hinterlands.

These extend into both the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks.

The scheme also plans to work with local organisations, businesses, colleges and universities to create new opportunities for business and enable local companies to benefit from creative expertise.

The project will harness the potential for digital technologies and creative media to support local businesses and link cultural activities together.

Younger people will be engaged in a diverse range of exciting new arts and heritage events to promote the area and give work experience to young and emerging talent.

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