Rural renaissance: developing the rural economy

Yorkshire Forward is dedicated to addressing the opportunities and challenges facing our rural areas by strengthening and improving economic performance. Our rural landscapes and market towns comprise over 80% of Yorkshire & Humber’s land area, and make a significant contribution to both the economy and the attractiveness of the region.

This page tells you about our Rural Renaissance policy. To find out about the support we're delivering, please refer to our our rural market townsrural business and rural business funding pages.

Why focus on rural areas?

Businesses in rural parts of the region contribute critically to the region’s social and environmental fabric, and to its gross value-added. Effective rural land management also makes a crucial contribution to the regional environment, both as an attractor of businesses and visitors, and as a key element in the environmental cycle, through aspects such as food production and flood mitigation.

Yorkshire Forward is committed to addressing the opportunities and challenges facing rural regions, in order to create sustainable rural communities.  We are doing this through a bespoke Rural Renaissance programme, which also ensures that mainstream delivery is effective in rural areas.

What’s the rural economic context?

The rural economy contributes at least 15% of the GVA in Yorkshire & Humber: a reasonable proportion, given that only 20% of the population lives in rural areas. However, that 20% is thinly spread: 80% of the region is rural, which presents certain challenges.

However, businesses in rural parts of the region have the potential to contribute an even greater proportion of the region’s economy than at present.  Moreover, businesses and communities in these areas face a number of specific issues in terms of their social and economic sustainability. Yorkshire Forward recognises these issues and aims to address them through a locally-tailored approach to economic development. 

For detailed information, visit the Y&H Rural Observatory, which is run in partnership with Yorkshire Futures (the regional intelligence network).

What are the opportunities?

  • Our distinctive rural landscapes and market towns make a big contribution to the region’s attractiveness, and can be leveraged further
  • New technology can help to break down geographic boundaries
  • The knowledge economy releases rural areas from over-dependence on traditional livelihoods
  • There are significant numbers of potential entrepreneurs.

What are the challenges?

  • Rural productivity is low
  • The pattern and geography of land-use in rural areas means sparser settlements and lower levels of infrastructure, making life and business more challenging
  • The population is ageing
  • Rural areas are attractive as primary homes for commuters and retirees, or for second homes, but we need to protect those who originate here and avoid enclaves for the wealthy
  • European & UK policies on rural issues change regularly
  • Climate change demands a significant response from rural areas, which are major contributors to global warming.

What is Yorkshire Forward doing?

Our Rural Renaissance Team is addressing the rural challenges and strengthening and improving rural economic performance. We are benefiting businesses and communities by focusing on enterprise, competitiveness, using unique assets, and promoting the key sectors.

We want to see the contribution from rural areas maximised, with economic development supporting sustainable rural communities within a useful, attractive environment.

We have a strong and focused agenda for the rural economy, and encourage a business-led approach in helping Yorkshire & Humber to take control of its future. We work with key partners such as local authorities, Natural England and the national parks, and concentrate on: 

  • ensuring that agricultural activity is fully integrated with wider rural development
  • the delivery of business support
  • rural ICT for business
  • the renaissance of market towns
  • exploiting the economic potential of environmental assets.

How do we do it?

We work with a select number of rural communities, including market and coastal towns (or ‘rural capitals’) and more remote rural communities. We help them to agree on a strategic vision, assist them in developing their own action plans, and provide resources to put them into effect. However, we will not act as sole funders: we will encourage and support communities in working with a range of organisations to meet their needs.

Yorkshire Forward’s Rural Renaissance Team provides dedicated support services in rural areas, working closely with local communities, key partners such as local authorities, and other stakeholders throughout the visioning, development and delivery phases.

Our rural interventions

What are the milestones?

  • Our Renaissance Market Town programme runs until 2009, and will be replaced by a new Rural Capitals programme after that
  • The European Rural Development Programme (RDPE) launched in January 2008, and runs until 2013
  • The Rural Services, Rural Estates and Low Emissions Agriculture Programmes begin in 2008/09. 

The Facts

  • 80% of Yorkshire & Humber is rural
  • 20% of our population is spread across that 80%
  • The rural economy contributes at least 15% to the region’s GVA.