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Report calls for 'city deal' support for Welsh rural areas

Words: Roger Milne
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Rural Wales requires the equivalent of the city deals for the Cardiff and Swansea regions, insists a new report.

That’s the view of Welsh Labour peer and Assembly Member Baroness Morgan, who chaired a forum of business leaders, academics and public agency and utility representatives. The group has produced a report calling for a coherent rural development strategy for the country.

Key themes in the Rural Wales involve improving the infrastructure of rural Wales, promoting food, farming and forestry, and boosting tourism.

The document calls for support for the shift towards self-employment in and around villages in rural Wales, with consideration for appropriate housing and co-working locations to be given in future local development plans. It makes the case for reforming planning guidance and culture, as well as adapting local development plans to help promote and nurture businesses.

The report highlights the need for well-resourced planning departments and the roll-out of an information delivery course aimed at all rural planning authorities requiring them to offer pre-application advice about sustainable development.

The document calls for incentives to develop electric vehicle recharging infrastructure, faster broadband and long-term plans for better north-south, east-west road schemes including dualling where appropriate, as well as eco-homes for older residents. Also proposed is a scheme to provide teaching English to Chinese nationals.

The report stressed: “There will need to be further buy-in from local communities and there will need to be a meeting between a bottom-up community-based economic strategy and a more overarching strategy from above.

“The Welsh Government has a plethora of economic development plans and programmes to enhance economic activity; it is important not to replicate these and to stop doing some projects which are not delivering.

“Currently there is an assumption that economic development will take place in relation to four regions: the Cardiff City Region, Swansea Bay City Region, the North Wales Growth Deal, and the Growing Mid Wales Partnership.

“We contend that there are regions which overlap with rural Wales, but that a specifically rural strategy should be developed which would include the Growing Mid Wales Partnership which is made up of Powys and Ceredigion.”

Rural Wales can be found here (pdf).

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