Launch of new strategy to boost Norfolk's rural economy

This week sees the launch of a new rural strategy for Norfolk at a special business event (Friday 10 November) at the Green Britain Centre in Swaffham.

Cliff Jordan, Leader of Norfolk County Council, is speaking at the launch of Strong Roots: New Growth - Norfolk Rural Strategy 2017-2020. The event will bring together key stakeholders in Norfolk’s rural economy with the aim of starting to develop an action plan around the strategy’s key priorities.

Since the original Norfolk Rural Development Strategy was published in 2013 there have been significant changes, which will have major impacts on Norfolk’s rural economy. These include the UK voting to leave the EU, the introduction of the National Living Wage and rapid advances in technology.

To respond to the changes, the Norfolk Rural Strategy Steering Group commissioned a refresh of the 2013 strategy to identify the priority areas on which the Norfolk rural community needs to focus between now and 2020.

Cllr Cliff Jordan, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “Caring for our countryside and the people who live and work there is one of Norfolk County Council’s key priorities. This revised strategy will help us respond to the significant opportunities and challenges of the next few years in order to strengthen our rural economy.

“In particular, the funding landscape for farming, the environment and rural development is changing and the strategy underlines the need to make the case for continued investment in rural areas.

“Effective delivery of the strategy requires close cooperation and action from all partners with a stake in our rural economy.”

Steering group discussions alongside consultation with groups including business representatives, community organisations, charities and environmental bodies informed development of the strategy’s five priorities:

Vision and Lobbying for Support – promote a clear vision for rural Norfolk’s future growth and ensure that rural issues are embedded in decision making.
The strategy sets out our stall for investment in the rural economy. Those with a stake in agriculture, the environment, countryside management and the rural Norfolk economy will be able to use it as a lobbying document. This is especially important as we seek to replace European funding. The Norfolk Rural Strategy Steering Group is particularly keen to influence the emerging UK Agricultural Policy and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' 25 Year Environment Plan.

Technology Driven – using technology to transform the Norfolk rural economy and lifestyles through digitalisation, automation and innovation.
There is an increasing need for businesses to automate their processes to remain competitive, protect them against reductions in migrant labour and increases in the National Living Wage. There is also the potential for digital technologies to address life science challenges in health care by, for example, finding ways to monitor older people’s health remotely to target carer visits.

World Class Environment – Norfolk’s stunning natural environment is one of its many assets, attracting people to visit, work and invest in the county.
The strategy proposes actions to improve access to Norfolk’s countryside, whilst helping local businesses to capitalise on it. Developing and promoting new boating, cycling and walking routes, promoting local food, drink and cultural events and ensuring we offer first class accommodation will ensure tourists spend more in the county, and improve the industry’s contribution to Norfolk’s economy.

Agri-food Competitiveness – Norfolk’s agri-food industry needs to compete nationally and internationally by improving productivity, supply chains and by responding to customers’ needs.
Norfolk has a good track record of agricultural innovation, but cannot afford to become complacent. Norfolk farms need to develop more profitable, added-value products or diversify into other areas, such as tourism. For example, developing greater capacity for processing more of what we grow or rear in Norfolk could dramatically improve the contribution of the agricultural sector to Norfolk’s economy.

Enablers of Growth – promoting rural infrastructure improvements which unlock growth.
To make the most of our rural economy we need modern water, communication and energy systems. Norfolk has a shortage of water which stymies investment in food processing plants, for example . The strategy emphasises the need to work with utilities and other organisations to ensure we have 21st century infrastructure to support our rural economy.

In addition, the strategy addresses the issue of relatively low qualification levels within rural Norfolk which, particularly at a time of rapid change, could restrict its ability to embrace future opportunities.

Clarke Willis MBE, Chair of the Norfolk Rural Strategy Steering Group, said: “If we are to deliver new environmental programmes, embrace the potential of technology, improve agri-food competitiveness or find new ways to deliver modern infrastructure, we will all have to learn new skills. Upskilling our existing workforce and making rural areas attractive to highly skilled young people is therefore essential if these areas are to fulfil their potential.

“The success of the strategy depends on action by businesses and local communities, with the public sector playing a supportive and enabling role. We look forward to working with others to drive all five priority areas forward for the benefit of rural Norfolk.”

Strong Roots: New Growth - Norfolk Rural Strategy 2017-2020 is available on Norfolk County Council's website at www.norfolk.gov.uk/ruralstrategy


Norfolk County Council

30.11.17




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