A new voice for peripheral rural regions.

A new coalition of rural local authorities have come together to make the positive case for England’s most remote rural areas.  Britain’s Leading Edge is a collaboration of upper tier local authority areas that meet the criteria of being mainly or largely rural, with no major cities.  The coalition seeks to offer a counterpoint to organizations such as the Centre for Cities and Centre for Towns which promote a more urban centric policy view.

Why is Britain’s Leading Edge Needed

There is a fear that in a post-Brexit world policy initiatives such the Industrial Strategy and the Shared Prosperity Fund will target the urban core. This could be directly by favouring city regions or indirectly by supporting sectors which are heavily concentrated in the urban core.  There is a growing feeling that neglecting rural areas is a big missed opportunity.

In fact Britain’s Leading Edge is home to 6 million people and 8% of England’s GVA. As well the its natural resources, the area is home to many innovative and high-tech companies as well as the more traditional rural industries.

Further fragmentation of the rural voice?

The Britain’s Leading Edge prospectus draws a distinction between, what it terms, the policy corridor. An area down the middle of the country encompassing all the major cities and the Leading Edge areas in the south west and northern extremes of the country.  If there is a criticism of this initiative, it is that it excludes large areas of what are generally thought of as rural heartlands.  These are down the Pennine ridge and East Anglia.  This may be seen as fragmenting the rural voice at the very time when institutions such as the House of Lords Rural Economy Select Committee are calling for a unified voice.

This minor quibble aside, it is heartening to see that Britain’s Leading Edge seeks to take a positive view of the potential of rural areas. It specifically isn’t about complaining or asking for more, rather asking for a fair treatment of rural in the development of national policy.

Britain’s Leading Edge can be contact at: britainsleadingedge@cornwall.gov.uk

The 12 founding members of Britain’s Leading Edge are Cornwall Council; Cumbria County Council; Dorset Council; Durham County Council; East Riding of Yorkshire Council; Herefordshire Council; Council of the Isles of Scilly; Isle of Wight Council; Lincolnshire County Council; North Yorkshire County Council; Rutland County Council; Shropshire Council.

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    Britains Leading Edge Booklet July19 (003)