SWLEP’s Rural Productivity Commission calls for evidence from rural businesses and stakeholders

*** Update – deadline expired end June 2017***

The South West Rural Productivity Commission has been established as a partnership by four LEPs in the south west of England: The Heart of the South West (HotSW LEP), Dorset LEP, Swindon & Wiltshire (SWLEP), Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly (CIoS LEP) to explore the issues around rural productivity and growth.

Today launches the open call for written evidence with the deadline of 19th May [NB now extended] and for expressions of interest to take part one of a series of evidence hearings in June.

These south west LEPs recognise the importance of rural growth, productivity and prosperity being tackled alongside urban growth, to ensure that improvements impact on all parts of the economy.

The commission is set up to hear and review evidence from a range of sources and stakeholders, and aims to:

  • Frame the south west response to the Industrial Strategy and forthcoming DEFRA 25 year plans for ‘food, farming and fisheries’ and ‘environment’
  • Draw out the opportunities for the south west and individual LEPs to drive rural productivity improvements
  • Understand the wider economic functioning between rural and urban to identify opportunities to drive growth across the whole area
  • Secure Government support for specific initiatives in the 2017 autumn statement
  • Influence national and local policies where appropriate to improve rural productivity

The commission will report to the chairs of the four LEPs that have committed to the process, and it will be chaired by David Fursdon, Chair of the SW Rural and Farming Network and supported by nominated representatives from each LEP area.

The commission will collect and review evidence through the current call for written evidence by 19th May, followed by a series of evidence hearings in June across the four LEP areas (which will be open to the public and further announcements will be made on dates and venues) and a final report at the end of July.

Businesses and interested stakeholders can submit written evidence to the secretariat of the commission, Emma Buckman at: Emma.buckman@heartofswlep.co.uk by the 19th May.

More information about the scope of the commission and key lines of enquiry can be found at the following website https://heartofswlep.co.uk/projects/south-west-local-enterprise-partnerships-new-rural-productivity-commission-seeks-views-rural-businesses/

Those wishing to present evidence in person at the evidence hearings are asked to complete this short on-line expression of interest form: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/EOI-SWRural.

Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership said:

“Building on our distinctive assets and valuing the rural economy as a driver for growth is key to the Heart of the South West’s Strategic Economic Plan. As we define our new Productivity Plan over the coming months, we need to gather evidence from rural communities to ensure that our future plans fully recognise the opportunities in this sector.

“I urge businesses and organisations involved in the rural economy to take part in the South West Rural Productivity Commission’s call for evidence.”

Mark Duddridge, Chair of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly LEP said: .

“The rural economy is extremely important to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and we value our natural assets which contribute to the area’s success as a leading tourism destination.

“Our local businesses create an economy that balances growth with the preservation of the landscape alongside development of our natural capital, and I hope that many of them will take part in this review so that our joint LEP partnership can address the real issues and opportunities that these businesses face.”

Gordon Page, Chair of Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership said:

“Rural enterprise makes a significant contribution to the Dorset economy both in specific localities and to the county as a whole. A key part of our vision is for strong growth across rural Dorset therefore it is important for us to be alert to opportunity, need and aspiration as well as some of the barriers to growth.

“By providing evidence, rural businesses can help us to better understand and address some of the issues around rural productivity across the south west region.”

John Mortimer, Chairman of the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) said:

“Swindon and Wiltshire has a vast rural landscape, with an UNESCO world heritage site and Areas of Natural Beauty that offer a great opportunity for rural business growth. The rural economy is vibrant with businesses in agriculture, tourism, food and drink processing to name a few who create skilled jobs, innovative products and also export abroad.

“Through the South West Rural Productivity Commission’s call for evidence, we look forward to hearing from these businesses on the challenges and opportunities they recognise would shape the future of the rural economy in the area and the South West region.”


Notes to editors:

Media enquiries: Heart of the South West LEP – helena.davison@heartofswlep.co.uk 07525806333

Scope and definitions:

The scope of the study is the rural areas of south west of England, in particular the following LEP areas which share issues in common.

  • Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
  • Dorset
  • Heart of the SW
  • Swindon and Wiltshire

Whilst we are proactively seeking evidence relevant to these LEP areas, we welcome relevant national, regional and sub-regional evidence that address the study questions.

Key lines of enquiry

  1. What does the economy look like in rural areas?  (sectors, jobs, innovation, productivity, demography, housing, skills)
  2. What are the opportunities for growth/productivity improvements in rural  areas?
  3. What are the barriers to growth/productivity improvements in rural areas?
  4. How does the rural economy interact with the urban economy and how can this be optimised?  To what extent are market and coastal town providing a ‘hub’ for their rural hinterlands?
  5. What skills are needed in rural areas, do skills issues differ from urban areas?
  6. How do we ensure skills needs are met?
  7. What are the implications of Brexit for the rural economy?
  8. Is there evidence of innovative clusters in the rural economy? If so, how can these be identified, nurtured and replicated?
  9. Drawing on our experience of delivering rural support programmes in the SW, what sort of interventions have been successful and what sort of interventions proved less effective?
  10. What is the potential for businesses to ‘scale-up’ in the rural economy?  How do Local Enterprise Partnerships and government bodies  identify these businesses and support them to grow?
  11. Are there specific challenges for deeply rural areas and how can economies be supported in deeply rural areas?
  12. To what extent have rural areas been able to benefit from wider growth initiatives (e.g. Growth Deals, European funding etc.)
  13. Are there any other issues relating to rural growth/productivity that you would like to raise?

Rural Definition:

The ‘spirit’ of the enquiry is to explore ‘rural’ in its broadest sense to understand how the economy is functioning outside of the ‘principal urban areas’ of the region.  We expect evidence to be qualitative and quantitative in nature and for partners to submit any evidence that they believe is pertinent to the enquiry.  Should it be necessary to interrogate national data sources (e.g. ONS), the commission will use the ONS rural urban classification, which defines areas as rural if they are outside settlements with more than 10,000 resident population.  More information about the rural-urban classification can be found here.  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/591462/RUCOA_leaflet_Jan2017.pdf

However, we also recognise that rural/urban data is not always available at this small geographical scale and sometimes it is necessary to use the rural/urban local authority classification, which also considers some urban areas as Hub towns (with populations of between 10,000 and 30,000).  These Hub towns have met statistical criteria to be considered hubs for services and businesses for a wider rural hinterland and their populations are therefore classified as effectively rural for the purposes of local authority classification.