This partnership is launching a national pilot scheme in South Holland, the first of its kind in the UK, which it is hoped will pave the way forward for other hard-pressed rural areas of the country.
Under the proposal a Rural Action Zone would be established in South Holland - one of the country's most vulnerable rural areas, but one which provides enormous potential. The rural action zone will turn interest, concern, good ideas, existing success and new opportunities into a bold concerted way forward.
In large urban areas, the government (leaning international lessons) is declaring action zones through 'New Deal for Communities' and in specific programmes such as education, health and employment. The success of this approach in granting priority to certain areas, giving new freedoms, enabling experiments and in challenging existing achievements, needs to be transferred to rural areas.
Chris Simpkins, chief executive, South Holland DC said: 'We are launching a bid for£2m of government money under the Single Regeneration Budget, which will be used to improve access to skills and training, specifically focused in the first instance towards the needs of the food industry, but also giving access to employment in the food industry, improving child care and indeed health care facilities. We'll be creating, we hope, an enterprise zone and lobbying also on the issue of a fuel tax credit scheme because, in all rural communities, there is, of course, limited access to public transport and government policies on fuel tax hit rural communities extremely hard'.
'The Way Forward - 100 Day Consultation Period'
Work has still to be done to turn the proposals into a formal structure and the launch event announced a 100 day consultation period to rally regional and local players to the Rural Action Zone concept in terms of projects and participation. Also, during this period, the aim is to secure national government support for the proposals as a means of moving forward.
Key partners committed to this initiative so far includes: Government Office for the East Midlands, East Midlands Development Agency, The Countryside Agency, MAFF, Lincolnshire CC, Lincolnshire TEC Group, Lincolnshire Health, South Lincolnshire Community Health NHS Trust, De Montfort University, Foodnet, and the voluntary sector.