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Panel of experts to fight decline of rural communities

Panel of experts to fight decline of rural communities

Published by May Norman at 7:38am 21st October 2019.

North Yorkshire launches rural commission in battle to save communities

  • A fight to save some of Craven and North Yorkshire's most rural communities from decline's underway.
  • A rural commission made up of a panel of experts will come together to examine key issues and challenges.
  • In what's thought to be the first of its type in England, North Yorkshire County Council's invited eight people with expertise in and knowledge of rural affairs to take part.

An independent panel of experts is to form a Rural Commission in the fight to save some of North Yorkshire’s most rural communities from decline. 

In a move believed to be the first of its type in England, North Yorkshire County Council has invited eight people with expertise in and extensive knowledge of rural affairs, the environment and tourism, upland farming, economics and the county’s culture and geography – to come together to examine key issues and challenges. 

Over an eight-month period the commission will examine the following themes in depth:

  • Farming
  • Transport
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Economy
  • Accessibility

By next summer the commissioners will be expected to put forward a series of workable solutions for the council’s consideration and evaluation. While their findings and recommendations will be public, the commissioners will sit in private and will meet with and hear from people living in super-sparse rural communities in North Yorkshire.

Cllr Carl Les, Leader of the County Council, said:

“North Yorkshire is rich in outstanding natural beauty. We have, without doubt, some of the most spectacular landscapes in England, with rolling Dales, imposing moors, a spectacular coast and beautiful villages and market towns. But with this geography and scale come very significant challenges and these are getting harder. We are not unique in recognising this, but I believe we are unique in taking this dynamic action to halt rural decline here.

“85 per cent of our county is what is classed as ‘super-sparse’. Our population density is five times below the national average, with just 76 people per square mile compared to 430, which is the English average.

“Our huge scale gives us particular challenges around distances people need to travel for jobs and services, digital connectivity and public transport. 

“We have more rural schools than anywhere else in England and continue to fight for a fairer funding formula, but despite our efforts eight schools have closed in the last three years and many more have significant budget pressures. Affordable rural housing is very limited and farmers in particular face tough times ahead.

“Our challenge is to examine these issues in a new and innovative way and seek workable solutions to halt and reverse rural decline.

“I am delighted with the calibre and enthusiasm of our commissioners and wish to thank them for embracing our invitation with such passion and grit.”

North Yorkshire’s Rural Commission will be chaired by The Very Rev John Dobson DL, Dean of Ripon:

“There is no doubt that our very rural communities face many pressures in the modern world, but by exploring these together in a structured way we hope to get a greater understanding of the issues and therefore the potential solutions.

“We will operate independently of the council but be supported by them and this is important because often a fresh perspective can shed light on problems which may not necessarily be new themselves.

“North Yorkshire County Council is to be congratulated on establishing this rural commission. Engaging with this great rural region and its particular challenges and opportunities is a priority for us at Ripon Cathedral. It is a privilege to be serving as the commission’s chair.”

The purpose and aims of the Rural Commission are to:

  • Recommend the actions that local partners should take over the next ten years in order to maximise the sustainability of the super-sparse rural communities in North Yorkshire.
  • Improve the evidence base and arguments that will enable local partners to make the case successfully for increased government support to maximise the sustainability of the super-sparse rural communities in North Yorkshire.
  • The panel will be will be aided by a reference group of key stakeholders to include the leaders of the district councils in North Yorkshire, the 2 national park authorities in the county and North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership.  

The commissioners:

  • The Very Rev John Dobson DL, Dean of Ripon (Chair)
  • Martin Booth - experienced community worker, project manager, trainer and social entrepreneur
  • Chris Clark - Partner in Nethergill Associates, a business management consultancy – building an eco-hill farm business – member NDNPA
  • Heather Hancock - chairs the Food Standards Agency, a Government department which regulates the food and feed industry
  • Jean MacQuarrie – Editor-in-Chief, Yorkshire Weeklies – JPI Media
  • Professor Sally Shortall - Duke of Northumberland Chair of Rural Economy, Newcastle University
  • Dr Debbie Trebilco - Director of Community Energy England and of the North York Moors National Park Trust.
  • Sir William Worsley - Chairman of the National Forest Company and of Hovingham Estate. 
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