New Government Rural Action Plan

22 June 2023
A new Government Rural Action Plan breathes new hope into growing the rural economy.

The ‘Unleashing Rural Opportunity’ plan aims to improve rural broadband and digital connectivity, housing, transport, creating better-paid jobs and employment opportunities, and helping those living in remote rural communities.

As the Rural Community Council for North, South and West Yorkshire, Community First Yorkshire welcomes the plan but feels that more could be done.

Jane Colthup, Chief Executive at Community First Yorkshire, said: “We are keen to see a more joined-up approach from the Government on rural issues. The plan ticks the box for many of the problems we know that people living in rural areas face – from affordable housing and access to public services, to broadband connectivity, transport and healthcare. We need to see tangible on the ground action that makes a real difference to people’s lives.”

Major concerns for the Rural Community Council which don’t seem to be addressed within the plan, are:

  • The rural premium of delivering core services in rural areas compared to urban (the latter receive £135 more per head)
  • There needs to be a greater focus on access to health, care and mental health in our rural communities
  • More detail needs to be provided on when action will be taken to make improvements.

Jane continues: “We understand that consultation is an essential part of this plan and the time required to do so. Our rural communities need practical action now to enable them to thrive and play the active part they want to in our national recovery. We’d like the government to set firm timescales for these plans that demonstrate how they are delivering on their promises.”

A more detailed look at the Community First Yorkshire response to the plan and the issues it poses includes:

Costliness of delivering rural services

Delivering services in rural areas is more costly than in urban. This is despite urban areas receiving £135 more per head in Government funding to run core services (such as social services, schools, planning, and environmental health). Underfunding for rural services makes it even more difficult to deliver them.

Greater focus of healthcare needed

We would have liked to see a bigger focus on health, care, and mental health, but are pleased to see a dentistry plan has been included.

Improved broadband access

It is good to see such a strong emphasis on broadband access, as we are aware of a significant amount of ‘not spots*, and areas in the region where it is difficult to get proper connectivity. Better connectivity will enable people and businesses in rural areas to have the same opportunities to thrive as their urban counterparts.

Better access to affordable housing

Part of the plan looks at supporting Rural Housing Enablers and housing by relaxing planning legislation and developing farm buildings. This could help people to convert redundant farm buildings for business use, or homes and increase affordable housing in rural areas so that homes are created where they are needed.

Tackling rural crime

There are high incidences of equipment theft of quad bikes and dogs in rural areas, together with anti-social behaviour such as fly tipping. To help combat this, new funding has been included for the national rural crime unit to help cut crime and keep communities safe and a new funded role to tackle fly tipping. Increased fly tipping penalties are also planned in the legislation.

Developing the electrical infrastructure

The Rural Action Plan will support electricity infrastructure in rural areas, making sure it keeps up with the changing needs of consumers; this is particularly important to support the electrification of heating and EV charging and accelerate electricity network connections.

Next steps for the Government will be consultations to look at rural transport and public libraries, along with making new funding available to improve productivity and animal welfare at smaller abattoirs, recognising the importance of smaller abattoirs to more remote farming businesses. This will help avoid another large-scale pig cull.

This BBC Farming Today episode (from 4:20mins) gives a good overview of some of the key points in the Rural Action Plan.

How can Community First Yorkshire help?

If you live or work in a not spot* or an area with poor connectivity, or you would like some help with knowledge or confidence in how to use technology, our Digital Inclusion Network Project could help you. We also signpost people to potential grants for technology to use at home. If you want to use or borrow technology in your community. Just get in touch to know more.

For information on community led housing as an achievable housing option for residents, communities, and partners throughout the North Yorkshire and East Riding region, please visit our Community Led Homes, North Yorkshire and East Riding website. You can also learn about community led housing, why it matters for your community, and have your questions answered at our Community Led Homes, North Yorkshire and East Riding website Awareness Roadshows in June.

*A not spot is an area where there is slow Internet access, or somewhere where there is no connection at all.