THREE new networks have been unveiled to help ensure government policies are rural-friendly.
Fourteen Rural and Farming Networks were established at the start of the year to act as identify and feed back local issues and concerns to ministers.
A map showing locations of the 14 original networks can be seen here. But some areas were left uncovered.
Now three more networks – covering southern and north-west England – have been announced by Defra minister Richard Benyon.
The Wessex Rural and Farming Network covers Dorset, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Surrey, West Berkshire, West Sussex and Wiltshire.
The two other networks are the Cumbria & North Lancashire Farming, Food & Rural Group; and the Cheshire, South and West Lancashire, Merseyside & Manchester Land Use, Farming & Rural Group.
Mr Benyon said: "Great business ideas should never be held back by the challenges of a rural location."
The networks would ensure the government was aware of problems faced by local businesses so they could be tackled.
The networks bring together people from rural communities, rural businesses and the food and farming industries.
They make a direct link between rural areas and the government, creating new opportunities to develop better and more targeted policy.
Each group will also be a vital point of contact in the event of local emergencies – such as flooding – giving advice and information to keep businesses running.
The new networks sit alongside a £165 million package of measures to support rural communities announced in the Rural Economy Growth Review.
The review is the government's bid to maximise the economic potential of rural communities and businesses.
It included £100 million to grow rural businesses through the Rural Development Programme for England.
The rural and farming networks will meet for the first time this year and then on individual policy areas or issues of importance to rural communities.
The Defra homepage for the networks can be accessed by clicking here.
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