Headlines: September 10th, 2010

An organisation representing rural local authorities, businesses and other public services is urging policy-makers to act on recommendations from the Commission for Rural Communities to help the countryside realise its economic potential. The call has come from The Rural Services Network, which believes the Commission’s Agenda For Change recognised the countryside’s vital role in Britain’s economic recovery.

The network’s Chief Executive, Graham Biggs, said more needed to be done by all levels of government if the countryside was to realise its potential. “The countryside is a living and working part of the British economy and we welcome the publication of this timely document,” said Mr. Biggs, who is a former local authority chief executive.

The Commission’s main recommendation was that policy-makers should pay more attention to meeting rural needs. Mr Biggs said the document should not be read and left on a shelf to gather dust but its recommendations should be implemented in full and as soon as possible. He had particular praise for the idea that the planning system should support rather than frustrate sustainable economic growth in rural areas.

“Planners are too often driven by urban orientated guiding principles and a system which discriminates against rural communities. These all mean that most rural centres, including many market towns, are denied the opportunity to respond to changing circumstances,” he said. He also welcomed proposals for local authorities and other public bodies to respond positively to community-led plans.

The Rural Services Network brings together more than 200 organisations working to improve the delivery of rural services across England, including local authorities, public bodies, businesses, charities and voluntary groups.