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Evidence to the SW Rural Productivity Commission

By Rural Focus, Jun 9 2017 05:11PM

During May and June 2017, the Rural Productivity Commission set up by the four Local Enterprise Partnerships in the South West of England has been taking evidence on the issues and opportunities facing the rural economy.

Rural Focus prepared the written submission made by the Reimagining the Levels Group, focussing on the communities and land-based businesses on the Somerset Levels and their catchment and highlighting the economic risks posed by climate change and flooding. Robert Deane, Rural Focus Director, and two other members of the group attended the panel session on 9th June and answered questions.

Among the recommendations made by the group were the need to:

- Develop an economic strategy that properly values natural capital and the services it provides, taking a 'bioregional' approach

- Build more robust and effective local supply chains for rural businesses, particularly those in the food and drink sectors

- Take full advantage of ‘green’ economic sectors in which the region excels such as:

o Renewable energy, including wind, solar and tidal

o Food and drink linked to the region’s strong sense of place and environmental quality

o Tourism and hospitality that uses the region’s culture and environment as a key part of its offer

- Bring unmanaged woodland back into the economy and plant new woodland and trees where they will do most good (e.g. reduce flood risk), building jobs and value around woodland products and uses.

- Develop a stronger rationale for maintaining qualified UK-exchequer farm income support, based on the public benefits that a diverse family-farming economy provides, taking account of the risks that would arise from an unsupported/ unconstrained market.

- Engage businesses with the region’s community and public interest organisations to raise awareness and demand for the bioregional economy, developing a ‘South West Best’ campaign, with information and tools on how businesses can grow through strong networks and market differentiation.

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