Northumberland County Council is spearheading a new initiative to ensure rural areas have a voice in the UK’s economic future.
The local authority, in collaboration with the Institute of Local Governance (ILG), is starting a ‘wide-ranging conversation’ to help shape emerging policies at local and national levels.
Around 40 stakeholders, including business leaders, academics and public and third sector representatives, recently met at Hexham Mart to start the initiative.
Coun Peter Jackson, leader of the county council, said: “While cities are recognised as the economic powerhouses of the UK economy, there is often a lack of recognition of the significant contribution that rural areas make to local economies, both in their own right and in the more urban areas they envelop.
“But with the UK poised to leave the European Union and the emerging industrial strategy committing to drive growth across the whole country, there is a unique opportunity to redress the balance and showcase the value of rural areas.
“I have been talking to the Government to further rural development in our county and the prospect of a North of Tyne devolution deal and a Borderlands growth deal are two examples where we can ensure rural voices are heard.”
Northumberland National Park chief executive Tony Gates chaired the workshop.
He said: “This is a timely initiative and a great opportunity for us to champion the resilience and innovative nature of our rural areas.
“Let us now focus on the positive assets of our rural areas, identify how they can contribute to the wider well-being of society and invest in and exploit them appropriately.”
The outcomes from the event will inform a six-month policy research commission by the ILG.