Policies focused on improving the economic and social potential of the countryside could add £43bn to the UK economy, report finds.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on The Rural Powerhouse has published a blueprint for economic growth in the countryside.
It found that no Government in recent memory has had a program to unlock the potential of the countryside, which has left the rural economy 18% less productive than the national average.
The report, which took evidence from over 50 industry bodies, charities, campaign groups, companies, academics, and business leaders, found that a broken planning system was holding back rural areas.
It also argued that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) lacks the policy levers necessary to make a significant change to the rural economy.
A lack of skills provision is causing rapid ‘brain drain’ in rural areas, the Parliamentary group found. It also called for urgent action to address labour shortages and supermarkets’ price-setting powers.
The Government is also backing away from commitments to provide everyone with full-fibre and 4G, and the tax system is also disincentivising business investment and diversification.
Co-chair of the APPG on Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse and MP for York Outer, Julian Sturdy, said: ‘This report sets out a comprehensive growth plan, one that will create jobs, spread opportunity and strengthen small towns and villages across the country. We recognise the unique set of challenges that the Government is facing at the moment, but this makes the need to grow and strengthen the rural economy more, not less important.’
Julian's co-chair, Lord Cameron of Dillington added: ‘It is vital that government understands that rural Britain is not a museum, but instead is an important part of the national economy that deserves the chance to succeed. The report provides an economic blueprint that will help any Government seize the capabilities of the countryside and create the long-term economic growth necessary to boost/enrich/enhance our rural communities – in a cost-effective and timely manner.’