Roadshow helps shape rural policy

BUSINESS and community leaders attending roadshows with government ministers are helping shape action to support rural areas.

Taking part in her first Rural Roadshow, Defra secretary Caroline Spelman visited Yorkshire to meet the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network in Harrogate.

Stakeholders told Mrs Spelman of the priorities, issues and concerns of Yorkshire's rural communities, businesses and food and farming industries.

The Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network is one of 14 rural networks set up to identify and feedback local issues and concerns through a hotline to the heart of government.

Mrs Spelman said: "Coming here for my first rural roadshow to find out what issues the community face and visiting a business park to see how superfast broadband can transform a Yorkshire business has been a great experience.

"Our rural communities across the country have great potential and we want to unlock it. That's what the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network will help us do here."

"We will champion the interests of rural communities within government and find the best ways to support local businesses and boost the rural economy. That's why we have invested £165m to unlock the potential of rural areas, including £20m to get the remotest areas online."

Defra ministers will be leading a series of rural roadshows across the country over the course of 2012.

The roadshows aim tol allow Defra to hear directly from rural businesses and communities about the issues that most concern them - and shine a spotlight on the vibrancy and potential of our rural communities and businesses.

Steve Willis, chair of the Yorkshire Food Farming and Rural Network said: "The rural and farming network has given rural communities and businesses in Yorkshire the chance to communicate important rural issues directly to government."

Issues discussed included rural economic growth and the Rural Development Programme for England.

Last year, Defra invited rural business and community leaders to come together in groups to help shape rural policy that meets the real needs of local people.

The 14 initial member groups making up the national Rural and Farming Network were announced in January 2012.

Mr Willis said the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network would be a key point of contact to give feedback to Defra on the impact of local emergencies, like flooding, so the right kind of assistance could be provided to keep businesses running.

The Rural and Farming Network sits alongside a £165 million package of measures to support rural businesses and communities announced in the government's Rural Economy Growth Review.

While visiting Yorkshire, Mrs Spelman attended the North Yorkshire County Council launch of a campaign called 'Go On North Yorkshire' to raise awareness of planned investment in superfast broadband technology.


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