A NEW network will give communities the chance to shape future rural policies, the government has announced.
Business leaders would have a hotline to the heart of government through the creation of 14 Rural and Farming Networks, said Defra minister Jim Paice.
This meant they would be able to directly shape future rural policies.
Networks representing different areas of England would identify and feed back local issues and concerns straight to the government, in order to make policies more rural-friendly.
The networks would bring together people from rural communities, rural businesses and the food and farming industries, said Mr Paice.
They would make a direct link between rural areas and the government, creating new opportunities to develop better and more targeted policy.
Each group would also be a vital point of contact in the event of local emergencies – such as flooding - giving advice so the right assistance could be provided to keep businesses running.
"For too long our rural communities have been overlooked and had too little say in decisions which affect them," said Mr Paice. "We are putting that right."
"They will have direct access to ministers and, just as importantly, ministers will use them to ensure we understand the impact of our policies."
Defra would be the "listening" department that would understand and promote rural interests, based on direct contact with the people whose livelihoods it was championing.
The 14 Rural and Farming Network groups are:
- Farming Food and Rural Network East
- Rural Network East Midlands
- Lincolnshire Forum for Agriculture and Horticulture
- Derbyshire Economic Partnership Rural Forum
- Food, Farming and Rural Affairs Tees Valley
- Farming and Rural Issues Group (covering much of the South East)
- Essex Rural Partnership
- The Kent Rural Network
- Rural Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Partnership
- South West Rural and Farming Network
- Worcestershire Rural Hub (with links with Warwickshire)
- The Rural Hubs Partnership (covering Herefordshire, Shropshire and Staffs)
- Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network
- The North Eastern Farming and Rural Advisory Network
The new networks would sit alongside a £165m package of measures to support rural communities announced last month the Rural Economy Growth Review, said Mr Paice.
The review aimed to maximise the economic potential of rural communities, including £100m to grow rural businesses through the Rural Development Programme for England.
The Rural and Farming Network would meet for the first time in early 2012 and then on individual policy areas or issues of importance to rural communities.
Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.