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Time to ‘level up’ all parts of the UK, says new Land of Opportunity report

“Cornwall is ready and eager to work with the Government to develop a plan to drive local growth and unlock opportunities for all of its residents.”

That’s the message from Cornwall Council leader Julian German in light of the Government’s pledge to ‘level up’ economic performance in struggling towns and unite the country.

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A large part of the UK’s regional investment and infrastructure funding is focused on London and other major urban areas, with rural and coastal areas often left behind.

The Government has renewed its focus on investing in underdeveloped towns, but with a scattered rural population and very few highly populated towns, it is not clear to what extent Cornwall stands to benefit.

However, a new study published this week identifies Cornwall and other rural areas as the UK’s ‘Land of Opportunity’.

The report ‘Land of Opportunity: England’s Rural Periphery’, published by New Local Government Network (NLGN), explores how England’s rural and coastal areas could help build a stronger national economy.

Councillor Julian German, said: “Harnessing the opportunity of rural areas like Cornwall must be a key part of levelling up all parts of the UK.

“Unlocking a new economy that delivers prosperity for the whole country must begin with understanding the missed opportunities associated with treating rural areas as just a peripheral concern.

“We need to reframe our view of rural areas, not as hinterlands to which benefits are hoped to trickle down, not as an afterthought when it comes to investment and opportunities, but as places to build resilient local economies and communities that contribute to the UK economy.

“That’s why we’ve taken the lead in establishing a new collaboration of 12 local authorities - Britain’s Leading Edge - of largely or mainly rural areas without major cities.

Councillor German added: “Cornwall Council and other local communities are ready and eager to work with the Government to develop plans that accelerate growth and prosperity for the benefit of all.”

The Government has acknowledged that adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development in all parts of the country does not work.

The Land of Opportunity report says: “The UK needs strong urban and rural economies in order to deliver Brexit and address the unprecedented economic, social, and environmental challenges the country faces. But strong rural economies will not be built on urban policy hand-me-downs…The UK is at its best when all parts of the country work and strive together for common goals.”

Other opportunities for local and national government collaboration include:

  • The creation of a new rural social mobility fund – to improve the life chances and opportunities of residents.
  • Employment and skills devolution to Cornwall – to help people improve their skills and gain employment.
  • Improvements to transport infrastructure outside England’s policy corridor – Not only will this improve access to and reduce the costs of vital local services in rural areas, but it will also contribute to the reduction of transport disadvantage and to greater social and economic inclusion.

The report sets out that with greater policy attention and funding, Cornwall will have the tools it needs to help deliver greater prosperity for residents for decades to come.

“Rural and peripheral areas are the UK’s land of opportunity,” it states. “Now is the time to unlock their unique potential.”

The council’s priorities are set around working with the people of Cornwall to use resources wisely to protect and enhance our unique environment, create more homes and jobs for our residents, and ensure everyone can live well and safely together.

Download a copy of the Land of Opportunity report 

Story published on January 15, 2020