The UK government has just published details of its plans to support growth and prosperity in rural areas.
Split across four broad themes of housing, communities, connectivity and growth, the ‘Unleashing Rural Opportunity‘ plan will help create jobs and drive growth in rural areas, including proposals to expand internet provision and scale up the availability of housing in rural communities. It also includes plans to:
o Help more communities access funding for village halls, by extending the scope of the Platinum Jubilee Village Halls Fund from Autumn 2023 by lowering the minimum grant threshold to £2,000.
o Publish a new public libraries strategy for England in 2024, recognising the role as they play in many rural areas as hubs for local services and digital connectivity.
o Consult on further steps to help remote communities get online by encouraging the provision of fixed wireless access and satellite services.
o Improve local transport networks through a Future of Transport Rural Strategy, which will set out plans to improve access to services, tackle isolation and increase access to jobs in rural and remote areas. The Government will also consult on reforming grant funding for bus operators to help them keep fares low and service levels high, helping to protect vital rural routes.
o Review how deprivation in rural areas is measured so that it is better understood and taken into account in decision making – ensuring the interests of rural communities are better represented.
o Legislate by the summer to increase fly-tipping and litter penalties and consult key stakeholders on ringfencing the use of these fines to fund further action on fly-tipping.
o Additional funding for the NPCC’s new national rural crime unit, to help cut crime and keep communities safe, by tackling anti-social behaviour, equipment theft and a new funded role to tackle fly-tipping.
o Continue to make progress in improving broadband and mobile coverage in rural areas by delivering the £5 billion Project Gigabit across the UK at pace, including plans to procure all regional contracts in England by the end of 2024.
o Publish a Dental Plan which will set out further reform to improve access to NHS Dentistry, including in rural areas which may find it particularly hard to recruit and retain dentists and other dental care professionals.
o Support electricity infrastructure in rural areas, making sure it keeps up with the changing needs of consumers for example, to support the electrification of heating and EV charging by publishing further plans to accelerate electricity network connections.
o Consult shortly on a new fund to help smaller abattoirs to improve productivity and enhance animal welfare, aiming to open a fund for applications later this year, and
o Consult on planning changes to make agricultural development more flexible for farmers so they can amend their existing agricultural buildings to make them more productive more easily.
Image: Lulworth Cove, Dorset.