Time for a Rural Strategy

Thursday 11th July – 10:00 – 16:00

Venue: Discovery Museum, Newcastle

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the last Rural White Paper, we believe it is time to look again in a comprehensive way at the opportunities and threats facing rural areas and communities in England.  I hope, therefore, that you will accept our invitation to join with a range of rural advocates and practitioners from your Region to consider how a new Rural Strategy can deliver for England’s rural communities and to join the campaign calling on the Government to produce such a strategy.

Today the challenges facing rural areas often leave residents and communities feeling isolated and largely overlooked by a political and financial system that is seemingly focused on towns and cities. Yet, nearly 20% of England’s population live in the countryside, more in total than in Greater London. There is a genuine need for their voice to be heard.

“Rural” all too often conjures up imagery of idyllic countryside living, but this stereotype is massively to the detriment of those living and working there and does a great disservice to the genuine challenges they face.

This event aims to champion a new Rural Strategy to raise the profile of rural issues and address the challenges faced by the communities of rural England, with the intention of achieving genuine equality for future generations of people living and working in rural England. We will look at a range of issues and opportunities, related to community and governance; connectivity and access and essential services in developing the building blocks of a new Rural Strategy.

On 1st March 2019 the Rural Services Network launched a campaign calling on the Government to produce an urgent comprehensive, cross-cutting  strategy for rural areas, in the light of a warning that people living in our towns and villages “simply cannot afford to wait any longer for politicians to take their concerns seriously and act on them”.

The call is the result of concern that deep-seated challenges to the sustainability of rural communities, including rural economies and service delivery in rural areas have been inadequately addressed for too long and the situation is now urgent. The significant outflow of people from rural areas to urban-based jobs and services continues to be a source of concern.  There is a prevailing sense that the potential of rural areas is being squandered, despite projections that unlocking their digital potential could add at least £12bn of extra productivity each year to the UK economy. There is also the continuing uncertainty of the impact of Brexit and the fear that the UK’s exit from the EU will serve to compound these existing challenges, especially in those areas currently heavily impacted by EU policies and reliant on EU funding streams.

The case for a Rural Strategy has been considerably strengthened by the recent House of Lords Select Committee Report on the Rural Economy, published on 27 April 2019 and entitled ‘Time for a Strategy for the Rural Economy’.

Following an initial event in Taunton in March, the discussion on 11 July will be the first in a series of Regional Roadshows and will seek to address questions such as;

  • What should a Rural Strategy cover? 
  • How should we take things forward – who should be involved and how do we make it happen? 

There will be focussed discussion on how a rural strategy would help in your Region and whether there are any different regional perspectives to highlight and specific actions needed.

We are inviting representatives from local government, business (including community business) and economy, government agencies, community, voluntary organisations and others with an interest.  We do hope you will be able to join us and we look forward to working with you on 11 July.