Unlock rural potential, says MP

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called for measures to unlock the "huge potential" of the rural economy to help create sustainable jobs of the future.

The Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was speaking to local community representatives from across Sussex at the annual conference of Action in Rural Sussex at Ardingly on Friday 6 November.

Mr Herbert called for recognition of the important contribution rural areas could make to the national economy, despite the difficulties presented by the current downturn, as well as a lack of infrastructure and shortage of affordable housing.

The MP said that with the right policy framework, new use could be made of redundant rural buildings and sustainable local jobs could be created, reducing commuting and contributing to the low carbon economy.

However, Mr Herbert said this would rely on bridging the growing "digital divide", between broadband access in urban and rural areas.  Innovative schemes such as community broadband projects would be needed to deliver next generation connection across the whole country.

Mr Herbert pledged that a new Conservative Government would support the rural economy by reducing the burden of tax on small businesses and cutting red tape to give them more freedom and flexibility.

The MP also called for local services to be valued and communities to be empowered to take their own decisions over issues like local housing.

While everyone recognised the serious fiscal pressures facing the country and the need to control public spending, Mr Herbert pledged that rural areas would have a "strong voice" if the Conservatives formed the next government, with representatives who have an understanding of the countryside.

During his speech, Mr Herbert paid tribute to Action in Rural Sussex (AiRS) and the valuable work they do in communities across East and West Sussex. 

AiRS was formed in 1931 as the Sussex Rural Community Council.  Based in Lewes, its role is to champion the needs of villages in Sussex with decision-makers and provide practical help and support to enable them to be active and vibrant communities.



Notes for Editors

1. The annual conference of AiRS was held in the Norfolk Pavilion, South of England Showground, Ardingly, West Sussex RH17 6TL.

2. For the website of AiRS, visit http://www.ruralsussex.org.uk/.

3. In the photograph, Nick Herbert (left) is shown at the AiRS conference with Chairman of the Board of Trustees Patrick Shanahan.

Christopher N Howarth