Rural Economy Spotlight - September 2023

A quarterly bulletin facilitated by your membership of the Rural Services Network highlighting a selection of current rural economic development news, issues and opportunities

Almost time for the 2023 National Rural Conference

The RSN National Rural Conference 2023 is taking place next week, exclusively for RSN members.

The Conference is titled "Change is Coming... How do we ensure rural gets its fair share?" and will take place on Zoom with sessions from Monday 18th to Thursday 21st September.

Aimed at Senior Officers, Members and policy makers along with those working to deliver services in rural areas this conference is an exciting opportunity to hear from expert speakers, network with like-minded colleagues and share learning and rural experiences.

Bookings for the Conference have closed but if you are in membership of the Rural Services Network and are interested in attending any of the sessions at this event please contact events@sparse.

Rural Enterprise Survey – findings to be discussed at conference

National Rural Conference supporter the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) will shortly be unveiling key highlights from its second large-scale rural business survey ahead of publication later this year.

Evidence from NICRE’s State of Rural Enterprise Survey is just emerging having been seeking the views of around 3,000 firms in the North East, South West and West Midlands over the last few months.

A major focus of the survey is the impact of the cost-of-doing-business crisis on rural enterprises alongside firms’ response to the climate emergency, and the availability of skills/labour in the rural economy.

Professor Stephen Roper will give ‘Unlocking the power of rural business: Opportunities for positive policies’ as part of the Rural Economy, Levelling Up and Regeneration session on 18 September, 1.30-3.30pm.

Prof Roper, co-director of NICRE and director of the Enterprise Research Centre, said: “Our results will be hot off the press when we present highlights at the RSN conference. While our teams will still be analysing the data and what it means for the state of rural enterprise, the initial findings will provide a first look at how businesses are coping with the significant challenges facing the UK economy right now.

Bookings for the National Rural Conference have closed but if you are in membership of the Rural Services Network and are interested in attending the NICRE session please contact events@sparse.

Access to cash in rural areas – policy statement published by Government

The ‘Cash Access Policy Statement,’ published in August, sets out the government’s policy concerning access to cash deposit and withdrawal services for relevant current accounts across the UK.

According to government figures, the “vast majority of people living in urban areas can access cash deposit and withdrawal services within one mile; with rural-dwellers around three miles away.”  The Policy Statement aims to “maintain this level of coverage, while recognising that needs may differ by location and change over time.”  It also states that “if a service is withdrawn and a replacement service is needed – this should be put in place before the closure takes place.”

Commenting on the statement, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Griffith, said: “Whilst the growing choice and convenience of digital payments is great, cash has an important and continuing role to play. That’s why we are taking action to protect access to cash in law and laying out that this means fee-free withdrawals and the availability of cash facilities within a reasonable distance.”

However, RSN Chief Executive Kerry Booth, says the experience of RSN members and the communities they serve is very different:

“Anecdotally, we know that some people in rural areas are travelling a lot further than 3 miles already to access cash.  Whilst these new rules may go some way to preventing this in the future, what about the rural communities already struggling?  RSN has put this to HM Treasury and I look forward to the response.”

You can read the full policy statement at  the following link:
Cash Access Policy Statement - GOV.UK (

Community Ownership Fund open!

Pubs, community halls, gardens, sports clubs and other treasured locations across the UK can benefit from up to £2 million in government funding each through the Community Ownership Fund, which is open again for applications.

The fund gives local people the chance to save prized community assets that are at risk of being lost forever and keep them open for future generations to enjoy.

Government state that: “To encourage as many applications as possible and make the process easier, the money available for applicants has doubled to £2 million, and the amount organisations need to match fund has decreased from 50% to 20%.”

The deadline for applications is 11 October 2023. All the information you need to apply is available at the following link:
Community Ownership Fund: prospectus - GOV.UK (

Rural England statistical digest available

The Statistical Digest of Rural England is a collection of statistics on a range of social and economic topics and provides broad comparisons between Rural and Urban areas by settlement type.

Prepared by DEFRA, the Digest has recently been restructured into thematic reports and incorporates the previously separate publication the Rural Economic Bulletin.

The Digest consists of the following thematic reports:

  • Population
  • Housing
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Communities and Households
  • Connectivity and Accessibility
  • Education, Qualifications and Training
  • Rural Economic Bulletin

The Digest was last updated at the end of April 2023. You can access all the contents at the following link:
About the Digest and Rural Definitions - GOV.UK (

Forum to gather insights from rural firms

Rural businesses in the North East are being invited to join a network which aims to help inform future enterprise policy and support.

The National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise’s (NICRE) Rural Business Beacons is a forum to gather insights from firms and channel their voice to policymakers.

The views and experiences of rural businesses gathered via the network will also help to shape NICRE’s research to make it more relevant.

The forum has been backed by the North of Tyne Combined Authority as a key network to gather insights from firms and channel their views to policymakers.

Councillor Glen Sanderson, the authority’s cabinet member for rural, said Councillor Sanderson said: “The rural economy is changing and this brings many new opportunities but also challenges. Working closely together, sharing experiences and taking part in NICRE’s Beacon forum is a great way for busy rural businesses to easily make sure their voice is heard and amplified.”

You can read more at the following link:
North of Tyne Combined Authority supports NICRE Business Beacons - NICRE

Institute of Economic Development 2023 conference

The 2023 conference takes place in Birmingham on 7th November.

The theme of this year's conference is 'Grow for Good? Reappraising the UK's Growth Objectives'. With workshops and presentations throughtout the day focusing on Town Centres, Inclusive Growth, Skills and Fair Employment, Housing, Economic Regeneration and Health & Wellbeing.

The launch of the IED Manifesto will take place at the conference, seeking to make economic development a statutory function.

You can find all the details and book a place at the following link:
Home (

Government consults on changes to permitted development rights

The government is proposing some changes to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, as amended.

They are proposing:

  • changes to certain permitted development rights that allow for the change of use to dwellinghouses
  • changes to certain permitted development rights that allow agricultural diversification and development on agricultural units
  • changes to certain permitted development rights that allow for non-domestic extensions and the erection of new industrial and warehouse buildings
  • changes to the permitted development right that allows for the temporary use of land to allow markets to operate for more days
  • changes to the existing permitted development right that allows for the erection, extension or alteration of schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, and closed prisons to also apply to open prisons
  • the application of local design codes to certain permitted development rights

This consultation also contains a call for evidence led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs seeking views on nature-based solutions, farm efficiency projects and diversification. You can respond to this consultation until 25 September 2023. Full details are available at:
Permitted development rights - GOV.UK (

RSN 2023 seminar programme

You can book a place on three further RSN seminars throughout 2023.

The established successful seminar programme goes from strength to strength each year having moved online during Covid.

In 2022, over 630 delegates attended our seminars throughout the year, with over 240 organisations represented. That is a total of 1260 hours spent by members of the Rural Services Network listening to expert speakers, learning from best practice and networking with other rural colleagues. Time well spent!

Following six excellent seminars so far during 2023, seminars over the coming months focus on key topics of rural interest:

  • Rural Planning
  • Rural Health and Care

Seminars are free to members of the RSN as part of their membership package.  You can book your place now at one or more of these seminars at this link.

What’s more, our seminars often feature member organisations sharing their projects and expertise, if you would like to feature at an upcoming seminar please contact for more information.

Grants to install electric vehicle charging points at the workplace

The government’s Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) is a voucher-based scheme that provides support towards the up-front costs of the purchase and installation of electric vehicle (EV) charge-points, for eligible businesses, charities and public sector organisations.

The grant covers up to 75% of the total costs of the purchase and installation of EV charge points (inclusive of VAT), capped at a maximum of:

  • £350 per socket
  • 40 sockets across all sites per applicant – for instance, if you would like to install them in 40 sites, you will have 1 socket available per site

More information including application forms are available via this link.

Broadband funding available

The Government is providing up to £210m worth of voucher funding as immediate help for people suffering from slow broadband speeds in rural areas.

Vouchers worth up to £4,500 for homes and businesses help to cover the costs of installing gigabit broadband to people’s doorsteps.

You can check whether your premises is eligible for a voucher, find a list of registered suppliers, and see those who are active in your area on the website below.

Local business organisations – keep calm and sign up!

RSN exists to enable the issues facing the rural areas of England to be identified, information and good practice to be shared and government to be challenged to address the needs and build on the opportunities which abound in rural areas.  We have a number of Chambers of Trade, Commerce and Local Business Networks who are members of RSN and currently receive our bulletins.  If there is a business organisation in your area who you think would find our bulletins useful, please pass this bulletin onto them and ask them to contact Andy Dean with their contact details so we can ensure they are included in future distributions.

Future editions of the Rural Economy Spotlight

The next edition of this bulletin will be distributed in December 2023.  If you have any suggestions as to future content or would like to submit a short article for inclusion, please contact Andy Dean.


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