Rural Action

This week I attended the Royal Show in Warwickshire - sadly, the last one - where I launched Rural Action, a new agenda to revitalise our rural communities.

Rural England has suffered a decade of disrespect.  Local services have been withdrawn, rural communities have been denied a voice, and power has been taken away by a remote and arrogant government.

Rural Action promises a better deal by respecting local people, returning power and decision-making to rural communities, protecting rural services and reviving the rural economy.

In West Sussex, we have lost four rural primary schools since 1997.  But village schools lie at the heart of vibrant local communities.  So I announced that a Conservative Government would scrap limits on surplus places so that good small schools can prosper.  We would also enable new rural schools to open where parents want them.

We need to realise the social value of rural services and allow more innovation to protect them.  By sharing a head teacher, Amberley and Coldwaltham schools have both remained viable.

Similarly, the community-owned village store in Amberley has been a huge success.  If we promoted similar innovation in services like local post offices, allowing them to offer new services, we could protect the network.

To address the shortage of affordable homes in villages, we would give rural communities the power to expand and build the houses they need, subject to the agreement of local people.   That's in total contrast to the Government's unsustainable top-down housing targets from Whitehall.

We've also pledged to deal with the ludicrous red tape that makes it so unnecessarily difficult for charities and sports clubs to put on events such as fetes, and to sweep away silly health and safety regulations that deter teachers from organising school trips to farms and the countryside.

You can see more of Rural Action's proposals at http://www.conservativeruralaction.com/.  I'll bet that most local people will view them as an overdue dose of common sense.

Michelle Taylor