RFweblogo ProjectReport

By Rural Focus, Jun 9 2017 05:11PM

During May and June 2017, the Rural Productivity Commission set up by the four Local Enterprise Partnerships in the South West of England has been taking evidence on the issues and opportunities facing the rural economy.


Rural Focus prepared the written submission made by the Reimagining the Levels Group, focussing on the communities and land-based businesses on the Somerset Levels and their catchment and highlighting the economic risks posed by climate change and flooding. Robert Deane, Rural Focus Director, and two other members of the group attended the panel session on 9th June and answered questions.


Among the recommendations made by the group were the need to:

- Develop an economic strategy that properly values natural capital and the services it provides, taking a 'bioregional' approach

- Build more robust and effective local supply chains for rural businesses, particularly those in the food and drink sectors

- Take full advantage of ‘green’ economic sectors in which the region excels such as:

o Renewable energy, including wind, solar and tidal

o Food and drink linked to the region’s strong sense of place and environmental quality

o Tourism and hospitality that uses the region’s culture and environment as a key part of its offer

- Bring unmanaged woodland back into the economy and plant new woodland and trees where they will do most good (e.g. reduce flood risk), building jobs and value around woodland products and uses.

- Develop a stronger rationale for maintaining qualified UK-exchequer farm income support, based on the public benefits that a diverse family-farming economy provides, taking account of the risks that would arise from an unsupported/ unconstrained market.

- Engage businesses with the region’s community and public interest organisations to raise awareness and demand for the bioregional economy, developing a ‘South West Best’ campaign, with information and tools on how businesses can grow through strong networks and market differentiation.

By Rural Focus, Jun 8 2017 09:48AM

During the last six months, Rural Focus has been assisting several Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnerships to establish new charitable or not-for-profit bodies to support their designation.


Based on this work, we recognised a need to do a broader review, looking at the way local charities are supporting AONBs across England and Wales. The review included a survey of all AONB Managers, coupled with analysis of financial and other reports submitted by the charities to the Charity Commission.


Our report, prepared with David Dixon, shows that over half of the 38 AONB’s in England and Wales now have charities which are working to safeguard and support the designation and its purposes. Since 2012 they have generated income of over £4.5 million.


The report shows that these charities are playing a significant role and, in most cases, are highly valued by AONB Partnerships and staff. The report highlights new developments and best practice and makes suggestions on how productive relationships between the charities and AONB Partnerships can be encouraged.


To request a copy of the report, please email robert@rural-focus.co.uk

By Rural Focus, Dec 12 2016 11:18AM

Rural Focus is helping the Greenham and Crookham Commons Commission (the statutory body responsible for conserving the commons and their uses) to develop a 'Shared Vision' that will guide their future work.

This involves working with people who represent local communities, registered commoners, recreational users and those who manage the Commons to establish ambitious but achievable goals.


We're using an on-line survey to find out what people value about the Commons and how they want to see them cared for. You can take part in the survey here.


The Commons are a large area of open heathland and woodland on the south-eastern edge of Newbury in Berkshire. As well as containing a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in recognition of their rare wildlife, the Commons were famous in the 1980s as the site of the US Air Force Cruise Missile Base and the Womens' Peace Camp that surrounded the base.

By Rural Focus, Oct 18 2016 08:37PM

The Reimagining the Levels group, supported by Rural Focus, has published its report, 'Reimagining the Levels, Making the Connections'.


Subtitled "A Prospectus for Revitalising and Safeguarding the Landscapes and Communities of the Somerset Levels and Moors", the report takes a hard look at the challenges arising from climate change, the economic changes facing farming, growing public distrust of experts, and the likely effects of Brexit on the countryside. It puts forward a range of proposals on how the landscape and its water should be managed and now communities, businesses and public bodies should work more closely together.


The report and a longer technical annex are available to download from Rural Focus here.

By Rural Focus, Jun 20 2016 03:27PM

The Exmoor Society’s Spring Conference on 22nd April addressed the topic of ‘Exmoor’s Future Landscapes’. The keynote speaker was Rural Focus’ Robert Deane who presented the result of his report, commissioned by the Society, on the changing moorland landscape. The report updates a review he undertook in 2004 and makes 15 wide-ranging recommendations to guide future work. The report can be viewed here.


By Rural Focus, Jun 20 2016 03:24PM

The proposal for a National Park in Dorset and East Devon was given a boost in May when a report was published, produced by David Dixon with Rural Focus, on the economic effects of the designation. The report provides the most comprehensive review to date on the evidence of the effects of National Park status. It predicts how the designation would affect the Dorset and East Devon area and describes the opportunities and challenges that would arise. A copy is available here.

HemburyBluebells_1605 copy MoorlandReportCover EconImpacts_NP