We were pleased to invite to the stage the thoughts of Tim Goodship Head of Rural Policy at Defra, Claire Saunders Director of the Princes Countryside Fund and Professor Mark Shucksmith OBE of Newcastle University.
The theme “Can rural communities survive without public investment?”
Professor Mark Shucksmith OBE, Newcastle University, argued in short that no, rural communities cannot survive without public investment. He felt that responsibility should be shared between local actors and the state, rather than labelling some places as ‘Resilient’ and creating the dangerous impression that they can cope on their own. It’s essential for a state that plays a role in capacity building and support with investment in both people and the place. In short he argued ‘We need an enabling state not an absent state’.
Claire Saunders, Director of the Princes Countryside Fund (PCF), discussed their recent report ‘Recharging Rural’ which looked at the challenges experienced by people from “remote” rural locations. Claire highlighted the difficulties facing the sustainability of rural communities, such as a lack of digital connectivity and affordable housing. She also discussed some of the recommendations in the research such as plans for a Digital Villages project and a Village Survival Guide.
“Can rural communities survive without public investment?”
Tim Goodship presented on Rural Policy. He underlined the key departmental priorities of supporting both rural businesses and rural communities. He spoke about the importance of Rural Proofing and how it needs adapting to the different ways of working each government department has. Keeping communities in mind, he stated £200m in the budget to support digital connectivity, putting rural areas first with an ‘outside-in approach’. He acknowledged some of the challenges facing rural communities such as an ageing society and finished by celebrating the positive relationship that Defra has with ACRE and our Network.
The afternoon closed with a panel discussion featuring Harriet English Head of Engagement for The Plunkett Foundation, Crispin Truman OBE CEO CPRE and Jo Laverick CEO Durham Community Action a member of the ACRE Network.
Special thanks to our event sponsor Allied Westminster.