Rural renaissance: developing the rural economy

Yorkshire Forward is helping to address the particular challenges, and the opportunities, faced by businesses and communities in our rural areas. This is a large region: substantially rural, but with 4 of the UK’s largest cities—creating issues around maintaining equality of opportunity for all.

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

Why focus on rural areas?

Businesses in rural areas are not all that different from businesses elsewhere in the region, and rural communities don’t face the same deprivation as urban areas. Therefore, rural areas can often be supported through Yorkshire Forward’s mainstream interventions.

However, the rural economy faces some very specific challenges, and makes a significant contribution to our environment and society. It does much more than simply add to our GVA, and this makes it worthwhile targeting rural areas with a bespoke approach to economic development. We address these through our Rural Renaissance programme, which also ensures that mainstream delivery is effective in rural areas.

Rural land management makes a crucial contribution to the region as a whole. It helps to attract businesses and visitors, and is an important part of the environmental cycle (for example, through food production and flood mitigation).

We need to support vibrant rural economies, maintaining balanced working communities rather than reserves for the wealthy.

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.

Additionally, businesses in rural parts of the region have the potential to contribute more to the region’s economy, and our interventions will leverage this.

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

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 and UK policies on rural issues change regularly
  • Climate change demands a significant response from rural areas, which are major contributors to global warming.

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 is Yorkshire Forward doing?

We're 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.

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.

Who’s involved?

We provide dedicated support services in rural areas, working with key partners such as local authorities, Natural England and the national parks.

Our rural interventions

  • Renaissance Market Towns Programme (until 2009)
  • Rural Capitals Programme (from 2009)
  • Rural Services Programme
  • Low-Emissions Agriculture Programme
  • Rural Estates Programme
  • RDPE business support (REIP & Rural Business)
  • LEADER Rural Community Economic Development (RDPE)
  • Rural Skills Programme (RDPE).

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.

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