Ambitious rural strategy unveiled

AN ambitious rural development strategy aims to boost the economy and service delivery across Norfolk.

The strategy focuses on how rural areas can develop so the economy continues to grow, rural communities thrive and the county's natural environment is maintained and enhanced.

More than 50% of Norfolk's population is designated as rural.

Formulated by Norfolk County Council, the Rural Development Strategy will be launched at a special business event at Barnham Broom on Friday (4 October).

It follows a local authority consultation with over 200 people and organisations to boost investment and growth in the rural areas of the county.

The ten priority issues for rural development in Norfolk are to:

* Build on strengths in agricultural-technology, engineering and manufacturing
* Increase the quality and number of rural jobs
* Increase the number of rural business start-ups
* Deliver superfast broadband
* Improve mobile phone coverage
* Increase attainment in rural schools
* Improve links to research and development to drive innovation
* Increase the rate at which new affordable housing is developed
* Increase private water storage capacity
* Increase the area of land in environmental management

Strategy success will depends on action by businesses and local communities, with the public sector playing a supportive and enabling role, says the council.

It will be used to help secure the resources needed to deliver growth by providing an evidence base and priorities for EU and Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) bids.

It will also encourage new models of commercial funding to support emerging sectors – including the agri-tech sector where Norfolk is seen as a world leader.

County council leader George Nobbs said: "We are working to strengthen both rural and urban economies in Norfolk. This report shows how we can develop the local rural economy.

"By increasing skills and improving digital connectivity we will open up the potential to deliver very substantial economic gains."

Participants in the strategy development included business representatives, business groups, community groups, charities, environmental bodies, councillors and council staff.

Completion of the strategy has been overseen by an independent steering group made up of representatives from the private sector and rural organisations.

The steering group will take forward the actions identified and work with the council, the private sector and other relevant organisations to enable them to be delivered.

Steering group chairman Richard Powell said: "Addressing the problems facing rural businesses now and in the future is essential for the county's viability.

"Norfolk is a leader and hopefully this strategy continues that trend for doing things differently."

"We very much hope that Rural Development Strategy will make a great difference to those businesses and as a result provide a boost to Norfolk's economy in the future."



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