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A partnership initiative between Lincolnshire CC, South Holland DC and Lincolnshire Health, throws down the gauntle...
A partnership initiative between Lincolnshire CC, South Holland DC and Lincolnshire Health, throws down the gauntlet to the government urging the creation of 'Rural Action Zones'.

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.

David Bowles, chief executive of Lincolnshire CC said: 'It works by trying to galvanise all the local agencies to work together in a far more effective manner, but ultimately what we are looking to do is to try and get central government to recognise that it's had Education Action Zones, Health Action Zones, Housing Action Zones, it should now start to recognise the need for Rural Action Zones and bring central government funding into 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.

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