Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rural Economy Is about More Than Just Farming

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rural Economy Is about More Than Just Farming

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor

RURAL businesses are having to battle with a range of factors which are putting the brakes on the countryside economy, warn North East experts.

Newcastle University's Centre for Rural Economy (CRE) is leading a debate at this week's Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on how to maximise the potential contribution that country areas can make to the nation's economy.

But this is being hindered by a lack of recognition that the rural economy is about much more than farming and younger people facing issues like closing countryside schools and a lack of affordable housing, Monday sees the the launch of a manifesto titled "What's missing in UK rural policy", based on research carried out by the centre's director Guy Garrod and colleagues, at an event hosted by the CRE at the conference.

Northumberland-based Professor Mark Shucksmith, director of the Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal and an expert in rural affairs, said: "While growth is a high priority for Government as we recover from the banking crisis, the potential contribution of rural areas tends to be overlooked.

"Our research offers a greater understanding of how the rural economy contributes to national growth, and how we can maximise its potential in the future."

The manifesto calls for improve-ments in a number of specific areas to push rural growth policy beyond a focus on farming, forestry and food sectors.

Guy Garrod said: "Rural areas need integrated policy to address rural issues. They aren't just the remit of Defra, and they aren't just about farming.

"The rural economy is diverse and entrepreneurial. The Government is missing a trick in not capitalising on rural potential to help fuel economic recovery."

The centre's research shows that the rural economy is worth PS400b and accounts for 20% of the UK working population and 28% of Britain's firms, while 70% of work-work ers in the rural economy are employed by small and micro-businesses, with only 15% employed in agriculture. …

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