North Yorkshire Rural Commission calls for Government action to help county's rural economy thrive

North Yorkshire’s Rural Commission has called on local and national Government and key agencies to take forward recommendations in a hard-hitting report, launched today (July 14), to bring about levelling up for rural communities.

Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 4:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 4:26 pm
Rural Commissioners at the Great Yorkshire Show after the launch of their report.
Rural Commissioners at the Great Yorkshire Show after the launch of their report.

The Commissioners, who are experts in rural affairs, have drawn up a series of radical actions to transform the region into one that has more young people, has a thriving rural economy and is fully connected.

Their report Rural North Yorkshire: the way forward was launched at the Great Yorkshire Show to an audience of key stakeholders, including representatives from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as well as the Environment Agency, housing associations, charities, community agencies, landowners, business and the National Farmers Union among others.

The Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Jo Ropner, also attended and commended the report.

Commissioner Sir William Worsley speaking at the launch on rural housing.

The Commission is strongly of the view that devolution is a priority to achieving effective levelling up for rural and remote North Yorkshire.

The Commission believes that central government must ensure additional powers and funding for the devolved authority so that it has real capacity within the region for decision-making and control of significant funding.

Commissioners told stakeholders today that a key recommendation would be for the devolved authority to establish a Task Force that would include civil servants, rural business, banking and industry, academic and scientific expertise, and local communities to advise and help implement the recommendations of the report.

A key challenge for rural North Yorkshire is the missing generation of young people who do not live and work in the region.

The Commission has estimated that if North Yorkshire had the same percentage of younger adults per head of population as nationally, there would be over 45,500 additional younger working age adults living in the county than there are today and North Yorkshire would be £1.5bn better off annually.

County Cllr Carl Les, North Yorkshire’s Leader, said: “We set up the Rural Commission as an independent body so they could look with fresh eyes at the many problems that have troubled

our rural communities for years.

"We thank them for their hard work, their months of sifting evidence, visiting communities and discussions with key figures and agencies in rural affairs and joining up the thinking into one report.

“The Commissioners’ recommendations are rightly challenging, for us at the County Council as for other agencies and Government departments.

"Nevertheless it is pleasing to see that the Commission does recognise work that the County Council has done, and that the pursuit of devolution is the right thing to do.”

The Commission examined a broad range of subjects on seven key themes - farming and land management; schools, education and skills; transport; jobs and the economy; digital connectivity; housing and energy transition.

Throughout their report Commissioners have raised difficult and hard policy questions to be addressed:

 Affordable rural housing must become a reality rather than an aspiration and this will

require more houses in rural and remote areas rather than on the edges of market towns.

The Commission believes it is possible to achieve this objective without compromising the

region’s beauty.

 Tackling climate change is a priority for the county -the Commission firmly supports the region’s ambition to become a ‘green lung’ and to lead on employment in the green economy and a revolutionary energy transition.

 Farming needs radical change to be sustainable for the future.

 Digital connection underpins many of these ambitions.

 The region has considerable wealth and the Commission sees a mutual bank as a means for intra-county investing in levelling up sparse areas. Often smaller initiatives seeking seed

funding have less success with mainstream banks.

It is the Commission’s belief that this type of future rural North Yorkshire will flourish, attract rural North Yorkshire’s missing generation who will bring vibrancy, energy, and vision to the region. It will mean that current policy problems such as school closures will be reduced significantly.

The Commission strongly advocates for the levelling up debate not only to focus on Northern industrial regions, but also on remote and rural regions and the significant potential of rural and sparsely populated rural areas to contribute to the national economy, achieve net zero targets, and drive energy transitions.

It concludes that the national policy of rural proofing is ineffective, it is unable to identify the specific issues and priorities of different rural areas.