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Call for more rural power

PUBLISHED: 08:44 28 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:26 30 June 2010

Rural communities should be given real power to take their futures in their hands and halt the decline in basic services.

That was the message at a major conference held yesterday, which recognised the tradition of self-reliance in many communities, but stressed they needed help to tilt the scales in their favour and remove hurdles in the way of action.

Rural communities should be given real power to take their futures in their hands and halt the decline in basic services.

That was the message at a major conference held yesterday, which recognised the tradition of self-reliance in many communities, but stressed they needed help to tilt the scales in their favour and remove hurdles in the way of action.

Delegates heard from MPs and rural economy experts, who outlined the challenges faced by under-threat rural communities and debated solutions.

The Plunkett Foundation, which organised the gathering in London, said “the scales need to be tilted more firmly towards the community”.

Shadow minister of agriculture and rural affairs Jim Paice told the conference that efforts were need-ed to “avert the slow demise of many of our villages and small towns”.

Continuing quality of life in the countryside meant communities needed to be given power to ensure transport services, broadband net-works, affordable housing projects and community shops could be saved for future generations.

John Clemo, chief executive of Norfolk Rural Community Coun-cil, said enthusiastic rural communities had shown it was possible to “do some amazing things with very little”.

But he added that specialist support services key to achieving results in rural communities were often in short supply.

Norfolk has a proud track record of community enterprise, from shops to housing schemes, thanks to the enthusiasm and deter-mination of small groups of people dedicated to maintaining the health of their villages.

However, with the right help, such projects could become much more commonplace, the confer-ence was told.

Peter Couchman, chief executive of the Plunkett Foundation, said: “Rural communities want to take ownership of the issues affecting them but there are currently barriers - lack of rights and lack of support - which are preventing them doing so.”


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