Government’s 10 point plan for rural productivity

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has recently published the government’s first ever productivity plan, which sets out its approach to enhancing the rural economy, entitled ‘Towards a one nation economy: A 10-point plan for boosting productivity in rural areas’.

As its name suggests, it focuses on improving levels of productivity in rural areas, seeking to promote benefits both for those living in the countryside as well as enhancing the wider contribution that rural areas make to the economy.

The 10 different elements of the plan each fall into one of 5 main areas of activity, these are set out below together with their supporting objectives:

Rural areas fully connected to the wider economy

1. Extensive, fast and reliable broadband services
• The government is committed to delivering superfast broadband of at least 24Mbps to 95% of UK households and businesses by 2017. Decisions on further broadband rollout will be taken in the Spending Review in November.
• By the end of 2015, access to standard broadband will be available to anyone unable to get a service of at least 2Mbps, through the option of satellite broadband.

2. High quality, widely available mobile communications
• The government will work closely with industry to support further improvements to mobile coverage.
• The government proposes to extend permitted development rights to taller mobile masts subject to conclusions from the Call for Evidence which closes on 21 August 2015.

3. Modern transport connections
• The government will improve transport connections for rural areas, including through its £15 billion Road Investment Strategy and £38 billion rail investment programme. To support smaller airports serving regions across the UK, the government is publishing proposals for new publicly-supported passenger air routes, with final decisions on funding for successful routes to be made in November.

A highly skilled rural workforce

4. Access to high quality education and training
• The government will ensure fairer funding for schools, including those in rural areas. It will turn inadequate schools into academies and focus efforts to support school improvement in underperforming rural areas.
• The government will invite local areas to participate in the re-shaping and commissioning of local post-16 skills provision.

5. Expanded apprenticeships in rural areas
• The government will increase apprenticeships in rural areas, including by tripling apprenticeships in food and farming and by helping small tourism businesses to provide more, high quality apprenticeships.

Strong conditions for rural business growth

6. Enterprise Zones in rural areas
• In the current bidding round for Enterprise Zones closing on 18th September 2015, preference will be given to proposals involving smaller towns, districts and rural areas.
• The government’s ambition is that businesses in all Enterprise Zones in rural areas will be able to access high speed broadband.

7. Better regulation and improved planning for rural businesses
• Alongside wider measures to reduce the regulatory burden and improve planning, the government will review planning and regulatory constraints facing rural businesses and measures that can be taken to address them by 2016.
• The government will introduce a fast-track planning certificate process for establishing the principle of development for minor development proposals.

Easier to live and work in rural areas

8. More housing
• Through the right combination of measures, the government wants to ensure that any village in England has the freedom to expand in an incremental way, subject to local agreement.
• The government will make it easier for villages to establish neighbourhood plans and allocate land for new homes, including the use of rural exception sites to deliver Starter Homes.

9. Increased availability of affordable childcare
• The government will work with local authorities and providers to ensure there is sufficient high-quality childcare to meet the needs of parents in rural areas.
• The government will welcome high quality early expressions of interest from rural areas to deliver 30 hours of free childcare to working parents.

Greater local control

10. Devolution of power
• The government will encourage further proposals from local areas for devolution of powers in return for strong and accountable local governance.

For more information on this document, please see the Defra website.

“Supporting rural communities in Sussex to be vibrant and diverse places in which to live and work.”