Rural England – A different place demands a different strategy
Calor Gas writes ahead of a one day conference to discuss rural strategy and policy. Speakers include Rebecca Pow MP, David Drew MP and Baroness Bakewell.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the last Rural White Paper a wide range of rural advocates from across the country will consider how a new Rural Strategy can deliver for rural communities in England.
In England today the challenges facing rural areas often leave residents and communities feeling isolated and largely overlooked by a political system that is seemingly focused on urban areas. The reality is that nearly 20% of England’s population reside in the countryside, more in total than in Greater London. There is a genuine need for their voice to be heard in these politically challenged times.
The term 'rural' all too often conjures up imagery of idyllic countryside living. 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 rural proof all future national policy, to raise the profile of the communities of rural England and promote genuine equality for the next generation of residents living in rural England; they are as much citizens of England as any other
The conference expects to look at a range of issues, and opportunities, related to community and governance; connectivity and access; essential services and the role of the land, in developing the building blocks of a new Rural Strategy, and to build the campaign to call on the Government to produce such a strategy.
The conference is supported by Calor Gas, Paul Blacklock, Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs said "Calor does more than three quarters of its business in rural areas, so it’s essential that we have a vibrant rural economy with thriving communities. This conference is a vital part of making sure there is a strategy and plan to help deliver on this".
The country needs to have a means of making progress in addressing the travails and challenges for everyone in Britain post-Brexit. The opportunity of a properly resourced, forward looking, ambitious and comprehensive Rural Strategy can help England find a collective voice and form a vision of what we believe needs to be done to change the status quo. Rural citizens deserve better.
Speaking before the conference Rebecca Pow MP for Taunton Deane, said “It is clear that rural areas receive less attention than their urban counterparts and this must be addressed. Rural areas face a number of diverse challenges, amongst them; the ageing population and gaps in the delivery of a wide range of services including transport, connectivity and medical provision. With a largely rural constituency I am working to highlight these issues in Westminster.”
While David Drew, MP for Stroud said: ‘I’m very pleased at being able to help organise and be present at this important conference. I hope that we scope out how a new Rural Strategy can take shape and this will be the basis of a new Rural White Paper, 20 years after the old one. There is so much potential available in Rural England yet this is endangered by a lack of investment in local economies. At the same time services are continually facing the threat of closure, which makes the lives of people living in the countryside worse than it should be and this hits the vulnerable disproportionately. I hope that we show that how by appropriate investment we can make a real difference to people’s lives.’
And Baroness Cathy Bakewell, Lib Dem EFRA spokesperson said: ‘I have become depressed at the inability of those of us in rural areas to control our destinies. Savage cuts to local authorities over the years have left us denuded of vital services. However, local communities are able to provide in their own areas. With the help of town and parish councils, communities can provide very local cost-effective answers.’
The Rural England – A different place demands a different strategy Conference hosted by Lord Ewen Cameron of Dillington takes place on Friday 8 March, at the Taunton Conference Centre, Wellington Road, Taunton TA1 5AX. Coffee from 09:15 for 10:00 start.
The call for a Rural Strategy can be found here.