Public involvement wanted for rural development plan

People, businesses, groups and organisations are all urged to help finalise how to get more from Staffordshire’s rural economy in the next decade.

After preliminary work with a wide range of bodies, Staffordshire County Council is publishing the draft Rural Economic Strategy for final comment.

The focus includes developing market towns, improving rural infrastructure and encouraging innovation and sustainable growth.

Philip White, Deputy Leader of Staffordshire County Council and Cabinet member for Economy and Skills, said: “There is already an economic strategy for the whole county, which includes a focus on urban areas, so this part is specifically about how we deliver benefits to rural communities.

“The continuing economic growth of Staffordshire rests in part on making sure that there is a collective plan for these towns and villages and that the diverse range of businesses within them are able to make the most of funding and investment opportunities as they come along.

“Having consulted with businesses, groups and organisations, as well as local councils, we think this plan is in good shape, but it’s not set in stone and we still want people to contribute to the final version.”

The five key areas are:

  • supporting the regeneration of Cheadle, Leek, Rugeley, Stone and Uttoxeter as places in which to live and invest;

  • recover and grow the visitor economy by supporting tourism businesses and high-quality accommodation;

  • support sustainable intensification in agriculture, including diversification, carbon reduction and succession planning for the next generation;

  • stimulate enterprise and innovation;

  • improve rural digital connectivity and access to opportunities through improved digital and energy infrastructure, along with low-carbon transport.

With approximately 80 per cent of Staffordshire classed as rural, that area is responsible for more than half the county’s economic output.

Philip White added: “Staffordshire’s rural economy has a good balance of traditional land industries such as farming and forestry, as well as sectors such as manufacturing, construction, services, food production and tourism.

“This strength is underpinned by excellent mainstream and specialist universities and colleges and there is a skilled, well-educated workforce ready to go.

“The challenge is to agree a clear way forward so that we can follow a common plan in the coming years to remove the obstacles preventing further progress.”

People can have their say on the rural strategy by going here when it opens later this month. The website also has links to consultation on Staffordshire’s wider economic strategy, which focuses on the county’s economic growth priorities as a whole.

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