Landmark report calls for new focus on boosting Wales' rural economy

The report makes a series of recommendations, including for the Welsh food and farming industry
The report makes a series of recommendations, including for the Welsh food and farming industry

The largest ever cross-party investigation into the Welsh rural economy calls for a renewed focus on economic growth and greater flexibility on the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

The landmark new report [PDF], by the Senedd Cross Party Group (CPG) for Rural Growth, sets out a new blueprint for the Welsh countryside.

It makes a series of recommendations across infrastructure and connectivity, housing and planning, tourism, and food and farming.

If implemented, the CPG says it could unleash the potential of Wales’ rural economy.

Productivity in Wales as a whole is 16% lower than the UK average, while workers in rural Wales are up to 35% less productive than in urban areas.

It follows the most comprehensive inquiry ever to be conducted by a cross party Senedd group into the needs of the rural economy.

The CPG took evidence from major business groups, farmers, employers, unions and others to produce the report.

Key asks and solutions in the report include the re-establishment of a Rural Development Board (RDB) to act as a focal point for facilitating rural growth, sensitive to sub-regional zones.

The RDB should set out a definitive rural development strategy, setting objectives for infrastructure development, connectivity and rural skills and have the powers and resources to deliver it.

A review of the terms – and clarity of the funding rates – within the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) is also needed, the report says.

The recommendation includes a demand for greater flexibility on the proposals to commit farms to 10% cover of trees and habitats.

And a raft of measures are needed to enable the planning consent system to become an enabler for responsible growth in rural areas.

Iain Hill-Trevor, chair of CLA Cymru which represents thousands of farmers said: “For too long, the Welsh government has treated rural Wales as a museum, to be preserved for the enjoyment of visitors.

“Instead, ministers should view the countryside as a source of future growth and prosperity, creating jobs and opportunity while still preserving its inherent beauty.

“Wales needs to generate economic growth and good, skilled new jobs. Both can be delivered by delivering on the recommendations within this report.”