Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Sunday Read: Northumberland's untapped potential

Rural Northumberland has extraordinary untapped potential.

We live in a part of the world that brings together natural beauty and culture: the historic Hadrian’s Wall and Northumberland National Park are just some of the key assets we have on our doorstep.

In fact according to the latest Government figures, predominantly rural areas in England are experiencing net internal inward migration of more than 60,000 a year. Places likes Ponteland, Morpeth and Hexham are special and wonderful places to live.

I want to see Northumberland and the North East continue to be at the heart of our economic plan. We are already delivering when it comes to manufacturing, tech start ups, small business, and exporters; all areas where our region is leading the way and all vital parts of our rural economy

We can only unlock growth in Northumberland if we unlock the potential in our rural economy - as well as our great cities. The connection between the two is key to the economic success of our region. That intrinsic connection between town and country is exemplified in my constituency. The links between Hexham and Newcastle for example can be traced back centuries - and continue to the modern day.

From Hadrian's Wall to the A69 - the River Tyne to the Carlisle to Newcastle railway line - our communities, and economies are inextricably linked. It is the great industries and thriving business of Newcastle which provide much of the work for my constituents living in places like Ponteland.

Yet, our rural economy has so much potential and it must be harnessed. On Thursday 30th July I hosted the Rural Economy conference. Bringing together over 70 of the regions key drivers, the conference was a showcase of the talent and ambition in our region. 

The rural economy Minister and neighbouring MP, Rory Stewart, gave a speech in which he stressed his desire to put Northumberland back at the heart of the country. The unique opportunities we have in our region when it comes to forestry, bio diversity and green energy development were underlined.

There are now more than half a million businesses registered in England’s rural areas, representing over 23 per cent of the total. So the economic importance of the rural economy – worth £210 billion a year – cannot be overstated.

I am keen to employ any strategy that will bring more prosperity to our region. One key initiative is the creation of Enterprise Zones. These zones are designated areas where tax incentives are offered to businesses in order to create growth. A new enterprise zone has been announced for Berwick-upon-Tweed to build on the planned dualling of the A1 and I am keen to bring similar such zones to our region. They have the potential to incentivise business growth and boost our local economy.

The Government is also committed to looking at planning and regulatory constraints facing rural businesses. In a recent survey of rural businesses the main barrier to growth that most identified was planning restrictions. So for a start, we’ll review rules around agricultural buildings such as barns to allow rural businesses to expand more easily.
Our rural enterprises are vital for a strong economy - vital for industries such as tourism, delivering £30 billion to our economy and bringing employment and jobs. The key is to ensure Government and Councils, Agencies and Organisations, work together to help deliver the infrastructure around which those business can grow. Our rural economy has so much potential with so many entrepreneurs and ideas that we must harness. A growing economy with growing woodlands and forests; mirco businesses developing new ideas and new services; farms diversifying and manufacturing business expanding, creating new jobs and opportunities. That is the potential we must unlock.

This Government is determined to support the millions that already choose a more rural lifestyle.

That’s why we are backing our rural economy. For communities like ours, we are working to deliver better internet and mobile phone coverage, improved transport and increased skills, increased business growth and more accountable local government.

You can read more on the Government's plans for boosting rural Britian by clicking HERE