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Communities can hold us to account on rural 'contract'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 25, 2012

Beautiful Westcountry countryside – but what about the problems facing rural areas?

Beautiful Westcountry countryside – but what about the problems facing rural areas?

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Environment Minister Richard Benyon describes the Government’s promise to rural Britain.

For too long, rural England was neglected by central Government and its businesses struggled against the challenges of their remote location. We are putting this right, unlocking the economic potential of rural areas and working directly with their communities to create even better places in which to live and work.

We want to be sure that positive change is felt in every rural area across the country, so we've created the first "rural contract" to give rural areas the power to hold us to account. The Rural Statement sets out our investment in rural areas so that every rural community and business knows the improvements they should expect to see.

We're tackling long-standing problems, like slow internet speeds and a lack of local work premises that make it more challenging to run a successful business in a remote location. Our pledge to achieve the best superfast broadband network in Europe is central to this. We are giving rural businesses the infrastructure and opportunities they need to achieve their ambitions, create jobs and play a key role in the nation's economic recovery.

Devon and Somerset is one of five regions which we have selected to deliver a Rural Growth Network to overcome the barriers to economic growth felt in rural areas. Devon and Somerset's Rural Growth Network expects to create more than 1,100 jobs and boost the region's rural economy by £58 million. Across the network of enterprise hubs, new work premises are being planned to meet every business need, from flexible open plan office space, designed for start-up companies, to larger units that allow businesses to grow. Each enterprise hub will provide one-to-one advice and support, dedicated mentoring, training, networking opportunities and access to good quality broadband.

We've already transformed the prospects of thousands of rural businesses, including Otter Valley Dairy near Honiton. Our Rural Development grant enabled this family-run business to evolve into an award-winning ice-cream manufacturer, creating new jobs and boosting profits.

The Rural Statement makes official our commitment to listen directly to the needs of rural communities and businesses. We know that our vision for rural England will only be realised by talking to the people who live and work there. We've cut out layers of bureaucracy between Government and the countryside to create new networks of community and business leaders that speak directly with Defra ministers.

We are ensuring that the needs of rural communities will never be overlooked and that their businesses will no longer have to face more challenges than those in towns and cities. We are confident that change will be felt by people living in every part of rural England, and demonstrated through growth in their local economies.

In making this "rural contract", we are calling upon every rural community to hold us to account on realising this vision.

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