rory presents vision for prosperous rural communities in parliament

Rory has spoken in an Opposition Day debate in Parliament on environmental protection and green growth, presenting his vision for “prosperous, vibrant rural communities”. In a speech covering issues of affordable housing, rural broadband and mobile coverage, and bovine TB prevention measures, Rory set out a template for the development of sustainable rural communities, arguing that it was increased flexibility, rather than increased funding, that was responsible for the prosperity of rural areas. He said:

“The key to creating prosperous, vibrant rural communities is not increased cash; the problem with policies pursued in the past fifteen years is that they have been too centralised in Westminster, too inflexible, too black and white, and they have failed to engage in the correct way with communities and businesses. What we need – and what the Government are providing – is more courage; more work with communities; more ability to confront vested interests; and more creativity. On courage, and with respect to bovine TB, we need to confront the fact that the risks come from cattle movements and linked holdings, and call for a better attitude towards post-movement testing. Scotland has shown the example. We should have had the courage in areas such as Cumbria, which are still safe and where TB is not endemic, to have effectively moved that border South.”

“On working with communities, the solution to the lack of affordable housing in our area, the solution to planning in our area, and the solution to renewable energy –  particularly hydro-generation –  lies in working much more flexibly with communities. We have just built 22 affordable homes in a rural area by allowing the community of Crosby Ravensworth to do its own planning.”

“Yet we must be more creative, too, as we have been with broadband and mobile telephone coverage. It is not simply a matter of cash. The point is creativity. On broadband, we mobilise communities to dig their own trenches and to waive wayleaves, and push commercial providers to innovate in their technical delivery. The same is true of mobile coverage. The Ofcom target of 95%, which was set under the previous Government, was not ambitious enough and the costs to rural communities were extreme. By pushing up the coverage obligation, we should now be able to achieve coverage of 98% to 99%.”

The economic benefit to rural areas would be immense. All the health, prosperity and vigour that it would bring would create prosperous and vibrant rural communities. I am proud to see, right now in rural Cumbria, the right focus on communities, the right creativity and the right ability to confront and to show courage.“

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Richard Benyon MP, responded to the debate on behalf of the Government, and concluded the debate by singling out Rory Stewart with thanks for his “vision and leadership”.

The Minister said: “I compliment my honourable friend Rory Stewart on a customarily visionary speech. The leadership he is giving his community on broadband, on local housing initiatives, and on improving mobile coverage for his constituents is matched by this Government’s commitment to do the same for rural areas right across this country.”

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