18/02/2019 - RSN West Midlands Regional Seminar & Meeting

Minutes of the RSN West Midlands Regional Seminar & Meeting held at Stafford Borough Council, Civic Centre, Riverside, Stafford ST16 3AQ on 18 February 2019
Thank you to Stafford Borough Council for kindly hosting this event

To download a copy of these minutes click here


Cllr Cecilia Motley

RSN Chair – Shropshire Council

Graham Biggs M.B.E.                       


Cllr Roger Phillips

Herefordshire Council

Cllr Joan Lea

North Warwickshire Borough Council

Cllr Bryan Cross M.B.E.

Stafford Borough Council

Cllr Les Caborn

Warwickshire County Council

Cllr Angela Loughran

Stafford Borough Council

Cllr Isabella Davies

Stafford Borough Council

Dr Malcolm Rigler FRSPH, Project Volunteer

Patients Association

Cllr Gill Heath

Staffordshire County Council

Vinia Abesamis, Senior Policy & Funding Officer

Herefordshire Council

Cllr Mark Winnington

Staffordshire County Council

Cllr Peter Whittaker

Bromsgrove District Council

Suzanne Shead, Head of Localities


Mark Parkinson, Economic Development & Planning Policy Manager

Staffordshire County Council

Alastair Sheehan, Business Development Director

HBV Supported Living

Cllr Carolyn Trowbridge

Stafford BC & Staffordshire County Council

Gareth Wilson

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

Jeremy Lowe

The Farming Community Network (FCN)

Gordon Banks

The Farming Community Network (FCN)

Peter Hardy

The Farming Community Network (FCN)

Kerry Bolister, Assistant Director of Development

Housing Plus Group

Cllr Ann Edgeller

Staffordshire County Council

Cllr Ray Sutherland

Stafford Borough Council

Steve Brain, Programmes & Performance Manager

Worcestershire County Council

Tony Price

Trent & Dove Housing

Gareth Jones

Stafford Borough Council

Cllr Rosemary Berry

Mid Devon District Council

Chris Egen, Senior Development Officer

Warwickshire County Council

Cllr Roger Evans

Shropshire Council

Ivan Annibal

Rose Regeneration

Dr Jessica Sellick

Rose Regeneration

  1. Welcome

The Chair, Cllr Roger Phillips, welcomed people to the second West Midlands Regional Meeting & Seminar.

He thanked Stafford Borough Council for their support in hosting the event.

  1. Presentations

The Seminar session received presentations from Professor Anne Green, University of Birmingham and Mark Barrow, Director of Place, Shropshire Council. The links to the presentations are attached.

Comments received after the presentation related to retirees into rural areas pushing up housing prices out of reach of local people; the need for good “step-down” affordable housing and the need for IT training/support for the more elderly population.

Comments received after the presentation related to the changing nature of County & Market Towns towards “days out”/leisure/eating out; potential use of heritage buildings as libraries/health hubs etc.; the need for Councils to ensure they had the right skills and decision-making powers to address commercialisation (by the Council) and addressing market failuresand the need for “evidence” to support calls for action. 

  1. RSP Best Practice Session
Presentation by Nigel Wilcock, Executive Director of the Institute of Economic Development on Economic Development in Rural UK - Download here

Comments received after the presentation related to Housing Targets set by Planning authorities “as soon as they were built - they were sold”; the need for flexible multi-tenure (including supported) housing needed; the role for modular housing

The Chair thanked all 3 presenters for their interesting presentations and different dimensions brought to the meeting’s attention

  1. General Discussion

Graham Biggs introduced the RSN call on government for a holistic Rural Strategy  which was being launched as a national campaign on 1st March. Cllr Phillips urged people to sign up to the campaign and become ambassadors for the idea by promoting to others the need to support the campaign.

The following issues were raised and discussed

(a) Involvement of Parish Council

NALC are members of RSP. We are being consulted along with NALC in terms of current spending decisions by Government. It is important for local organisations to get on board to promote the role of place through parish/town councils at the local level. It is important to provide an integrated approach to developing strategies for rural places. RSN’s job is to persuade national government that it needs a framework, breathing life into it in a rural area is important.

(b) Economic Development Connections

Links between Rural Strategy and Shared Prosperity Fund and LEPs at the local level are important. BEIS are important players in this context. Graham – we will be engaging with all Government departments post the launch of the template rural strategy on March 1st.

(c) Process

There is a plan for Stafford Borough, which has the development of the rural economy as a component. Where does this national strategy fit with this? Graham - It is a case of using this template as a document/approach to reflect upon in the production of individual corporate organisational documents.

(d) Nature of the Proposed Rural Strategy

Could it be a little more prescriptive in setting norms for people to think about in the development of their strategies – perhaps for example in the context of neighbourhood plans and the tendency to Nimbyism. Graham there is an incipient process of Nimbyism in land allocation and local planning decisions, which sometimes causes a dislocation between policy and very specific rural locations.

(e) The Rural Milieu

The economic downsides of rural economies make the attraction of key workers very challenging - a high- level strategy could be the basis on which national action could be taken to address these issues. Broadband and mobile connectivity, housing and skills are also examples in this context.

In terms of health, structural changes to the funding of health and social care have impacted negatively on the engagement of CCGs at a strategic level in wider strategic issues outside of health and care. This is a shame if we take the broad interpretation of public health as a key determinant of many aspects of rural life.

(f) Transport

Recent discussions about rural transport have helped to surface the lack of connectivity in the way rural issues are thought about and addressed.

(g) Public Health

We should not see public health as standing alone – in Shropshire it is being developed as part of a wider agenda linking it to other corporate priorities and by linking actions into the community and voluntary sector. Public Health resources are being diminished in terms of the stock of what is available for rural areas from a local government perspective.

(h) Planning

Shropshire have a single (housing) plot development policy – focused on 80% of the market value – also important for the housing to be attached to a settlement. Planning has a major impact on the effectiveness of policies like this and its drive for urban concentration is hard to resist.

(i) Economies

In terms of rural economies – we can concentrate too much on challenges and not enough on positives, this is important.

(j) Market Failure

Ivan asked about the risk appetite for local authorities to address market failure – through local action.  There was general interest in this as an agenda. Delegates identified a tradition of this in the early days of local government.

(k) Business Support

Often unglamorous investment and hands on support for small businesses is an important and valuable component of local authority economic development intervention.

(l) Housing

In managing housing risk – local community support is very important. Case studies of good examples are really valuable. Transferrable good practice is really useful.

(m) Evidence

Is a key element in terms of what can be achieved – many local authorities have no resources – we need to make the case for more investment in rural areas when properly measured – provides a good investment for the nation. Austerity is not coming to an end uniformly and this creates a justification for development in rural areas. Spending review and fairer funding review are important in this context. They are important for the redistribution of the business rates.

(n) Rural Sovereign Wealth

Ivan Annibal introduced the Rural Sovereign Wealth fund idea into the discussion as a concept for maximising the value of national resources for rural communities.

  1. Next Steps

Cllr Roger Phillips identified the value of keeping the lobbying agenda moving forward in terms of the issues raised today – particularly in relation to the rural strategy argument.

  1. Meeting Apologies

The following were received:


Cllr Simon Geraghty

Worcestershire County Council

Cllr Karen Grinsell

Solihull MBC

Cllr Polly Andrews

Herefordshire Council

Jan Sobieraj, Chief Executive

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

John Longdon, Chief Executive

Pub is the Hub

Cllr Lee Chapman

Shropshire Council

Cllr Dave Wright

Telford & Wrekin Council

Paul Robinson, Chief Executive

Worcestershire County Council

Ursula Lidbetter, Chief Executive

Lincolnshire Co-op

Jane Johnson, Local Director – North Midlands

Health Education England

Melissa Green, General Secretary


Cllr Tony Jefferson

Stratford – on – Avon District Council

Kate Pym, Managing Director

Pym’s Consultancy

Cllr David Harlow

Herefordshire Council

Amy Beeton

Health Education England

Caroline Shaw, Chief Executive

King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust

Cllr Malcolm Leeding

Oxfordshire Association of Local Councils

Martin Reohorn, Director of Finance

Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue Service

Robert Gatensbury, Economic Development Manager

Stafford Borough Council

Cllr Andrea Morgan

Malvern Hills District Council

Rita Lawson BA(Hons); MIED, Chief Executive

Tees Valley Rural Action

Cllr Peter Nutting

Shropshire Council

Cllr Arnold England

Telford & Wrekin Council

James Bullion, Executive Director

Norfolk  County Council

Cllr Brian Cox

South Staffordshire Council

Martyne Manning, Economic Development Officer

Stafford Borough Council

Cllr Frances Beatty MBE

Stafford Borough Council

Dr Tom Lawrence

TRL Insight

Cllr Penny-Anne O’Donnell

Stratford-on-Avon District Council


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