Cheshire East Council has developed a three-year rural action plan that seeks to highlight the opportunities and issues faced by rural communities and businesses.
The plan, which was agreed at a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday (12 March 2019), explains the way the council considers rural areas when setting policy and strategic direction, at a local, regional and national level.
Around half of Cheshire East’s population (180,000 people) live in rural communities, including rural towns. The rural area of Cheshire East is significant in terms of population, economic impact and its contribution to its ‘quality of place’ agenda – making Cheshire East a great place to live, work and do business.
There are strong rural employment sites, such as Alderley Park, Radbroke Hall, Waters (Wilmslow) and Jodrell Bank, and these sit alongside an agri-food sector (such as farm shops, breweries and cheese producers) and a growing visitor economy.
Frank Jordan, executive director of place, said: “While most would consider Cheshire as rural, very often Cheshire East is viewed in terms of the towns that sit within it. This plan sets out a way to address our thinking about rural policy and the way the council continues to address some of the opportunities and issues that rural areas may face.
“We must remember that a rural economy does not sit in isolation from a large range of factors, such as planning, affordable housing and public transport, access to health facilities, education, viable local services and fuel poverty.
“This plan is important as each factor can impact a rural community. For example, a lack of fibre broadband could prevent businesses from locating there or lack of affordable housing can lead to young people leaving. This work means issues like these can be addressed within the context of policies being adopted.
“This brings together into a single plan a framework for action that is a great example to regional and national networks of how local government can address the rural dimension that is often overlooked by others in policy development.”
The three-year plan seeks to identify opportunities and work on rural issues. Initial opportunities outlined include:
● Improving destination management and the opportunities for business tourism;
● Supporting communities and their wellbeing;
● Considering the availability of quality accommodation;
● Addressing the quality and sustainability of the environment, green spaces and access;
● Working with specialist sectors, such as creative industries, film locations, events, food manufacturing; and
● Supporting businesses to grown and invest in rural areas.
Work on the plan is set to continue until 2022. The rural area action plan can be viewed online by entering http://goo.gl/49uQsS into an internet browser.