Rural organisations have called for a more joined up approach from Government departments on rural issues
Westminster needs to take a more co-ordinated approach to rural proofing policies if it is to ‘level up’ the countryside.
Industry bodies have highlighted the need for rural communities to be more involved in policy making and a more joined up approach, following a new Government report ‘Rural Proofing in England 2020: Delivering policy in a rural context’.
The report focuses on strengthening the rural economy, developing infrastructure such as connectivity, delivering rural services and managing the natural environment.
NFU vice-president Tom Bradshaw said it was clear rural proofing must be taken more seriously across all Government departments ‘not just those with a specific rural brief’.
He said: “This initial report has identified many areas where policies simply do not work from a rural perspective.
“For example, while there are positive plans to move services such as GPs and primary care online, many people living in the countryside simply do not have sufficient connectivity and broadband to access them.”
He also criticised that only 10 per cent of the 180,000 new homes being build under the affordable homes programme were due to be in rural areas, despite a lack of housing housing.
He added the Government needed to realise it was not just Defra policies which had an impact.
He said: “It is therefore essential all Government departments do far more to engage with people who live and work in the countryside, and at an early stage of the policy-making process, to ensure they can have genuine influence on the decisions which impact them.”
CLA president Mark Bridgeman said with the rural economy 16 per cent less productive than the national average, the countryside was ‘being held back’.
He said: “So we welcome this report, which shows Government is beginning to recognise the potential we have to boost national GDP.”
But he added there was always a sense Government departments were not co-ordinated sufficiently to make it happen.
Mr Bridgeman said: “Government must be more ambitious for the rural economy, and put forward a coherent cross-departmental strategy with a laser-like focus on boosting productivity, growing the economy, creating jobs and building stronger communities across rural Britain.”