Support needed for rural business

A COMPREHENSIVE plan is needed to realise the growth potential of rural economies, say experts.

The government's recent Rural Economy Growth Review was welcome but didn't go far enough, said Newcastle University's Centre for Rural Economy.

"Up until now rural areas have been neglected by urban focused economic policy," said Jeremy Phillipson, of the rural economy land use programme (RELU).

The review included helpful proposals for rural businesses, particularly moves to establish Rural Growth Networks and increase broadband and mobile coverage.

But he added: "We would have liked to see more support for rural enterprise, tailored to reflect the diversity of economic activity in the UK countryside and the potential it offers."

The Centre for Rural Economy has undertaken extensive research over many years on rural economies and societies.

In a submission to the government last autumn, it said rural economies had great potential to achieve more for the countryside – and for the UK as a whole.

Nonetheless, there were also deep-seated challenges.

Policies for economic development, innovation and growth typically assumed an urban focus, neglecting the capabilities of rural areas, it warned.

Despite the systematic bias they had faced, rural economies made a significant contribution to economic growth.

They also compared favourably, on several indicators, with urban economies, said the submission.

"There are also many interdependencies and flows between rural and urban economies, and rural areas act as both incubators and catalysts for growth."

The key to sustainable rural development included managing rural and urban connections in ways that capture value locally.

"Challenges and opportunities pertaining to environmental quality and land use, housing and infrastructure, and human resources, were also important.

The recommendations can be seen here (pdf).



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