MP to launch Rural Growth Network (Somerset)

The Heart of the South West has welcomed Caroline Spelman MP, the Minister for the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs, to Somerset to launch the Rural Growth Network initiative. Click here to view the Devon version of the press release.

The Heart of the South West has welcomed Caroline Spelman MP, the Minister for the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs, to Somerset to launch the Rural Growth Network initiative.

The scheme is one of five pilots, spearheading a national drive to encourage economic growth and enterprise in rural areas. £2.9m has been awarded to the Local Enterprise Partnership covering Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay, working in conjunction with Devon and Somerset County Councils.

Ms Spelman met with representatives from the Partnership, as well as Leader and Deputy Leaders of Devon and Somerset County Councils. The Minister visited Highbridge, one of the proposed locations for the pilot, where a business park is planned to create incubation and light industrial business units, providing a ‘cradle to growth’ approach.

Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership Tim Jones said: “This is an exciting challenge for Devon and Somerset and will give us the opportunity of showcasing our many dynamic rural businesses and how it is possible to promote new and innovative ways to achieve rural economic growth. We are hopeful that we can get close to our target of creating around 800 new jobs and of generating approximately £60m of new productivity into the area.  This will also need to ensure that we develop our local supply chains and encourage participation from all sections of the community, young and old, through improved skills and knowledge transfer initiatives.

“Our rural landscape is significant, not just in terms of size, but in terms of quality. With two national parks, eight areas of outstanding natural beauty and many sensitive habitats, it represents a substantial asset, which must be made to work for the good of all our communities. We have to ensure that everyone, regardless of their location can access the right services including superfast broadband and business support to enable entrepreneurship to flourish. ”

Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, and LEP board member David Hall said: “It is vital that we enable our rural communities to access and compete with global markets. With over 50% of our population living in rural areas, we need to ensure that business can drive vital economic growth to match that of urban areas.

“We will be working with our partners in the LEP, Devon County Council and the private sector to enable businesses of all sizes and different sectors to benefit from this pilot.  It will help new businesses to start up, provide advice and guidance to support women into rural enterprise, encourage young entrepreneurs and develop a range of business accommodation specifically designed with rural business in mind. “

The Partnership also outlines plans for both Exeter and Plymouth Universities to work with new rural businesses, proposals to enable family run businesses to plan for their succession and working with a discrete community to promote, recognise and celebrate entrepreneurship.

The Rural Growth Network initiative will run until 2015.