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26 May 2017

SWLEP’s Rural Productivity Commission calls for evidence from rural businesses and stakeholders

The South West Rural Productivity Commission has been established as a partnership by four LEPs in the South West of England: The Heart of the South West (HotSW LEP), Dorset LEP, Swindon & Wiltshire (SWLEP), Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly (CIoS LEP) to explore the issues around rural productivity and growth.

These south west LEPs recognise the importance of rural growth, productivity and prosperity being tackled alongside urban growth, to ensure that improvements impact on all parts of the economy.

The commission is set up to hear and review evidence from a range of sources and stakeholders, and aims to:

  • Frame the south west response to the Industrial Strategy and forthcoming DEFRA 25 year plans for ‘food, farming and fisheries’ and ‘environment’
  • Draw out the opportunities for the south west and individual LEPs to drive rural productivity improvements
  • Understand the wider economic functioning between rural and urban to identify opportunities to drive growth across the whole area
  • Secure Government support for specific initiatives in the 2017 autumn statement
  • Influence national and local policies where appropriate to improve rural productivity

The commission will report to the chairs of the four LEPs that have committed to the process, and it will be chaired by David Fursdon, Chair of the SW Rural and Farming Network and supported by nominated representatives from each LEP area.

The panel will include:

  • David Fursdon (Chair) – David runs a rural business in Mid-Devon and was previously a partner in a SW rural firm as a rural surveyor. He also chairs Beeswax Dyson Farming Ltd and the SW Rural and Farming Network and serves on the Board of the National Trust and the Duchy of Cornwall rural committee. Other previous relevant roles include President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA); Commissioner of the Crown Estate; English Heritage and Affordable Rural Housing Commission, Chair of SW Board for 2012 Olympics, chair of Future of Farming review and Member SWRDA Board.
  • Catherine Mead DL (Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly) – Catherine is the CEO of Lynher Dairies Ltd, makers of Cornish Yarg.  Since joining the company 20 years ago, Catherine developed the business exponentially and 10 years ago acquired full ownership.  The business now exports all over the world and was awarded Regional Manufacturing Company of the Year in 2015 and Catherine was awarded the Women in business Award in 2011.  Prior to this, Catherine was a director of a London based advertising agency, with clients including the Home Office, Department of Transport and Department of Health.  She is Chair of Jamie Oliver’s 15 Cornwall, a Trustee of the Duke of Cornwall’s Benevolent Fund and Vice Chair of the Specialist Cheese Makers Association.
  • Luke Rake (Dorset) – Luke is the principal and Chief Executive of Kingston Maurward college (a specialist land based college). An Oxford educated zoologist, Luke’s career has held roles in both schools and colleges including 10 years as vice principal of Hartpury College in Gloucestershire.  Luke sits on the National Data Management Advisory Board for Further Education working with senior partners in Government bodies and until gaining his position at Kingston Maurward college was the senior convenor of the Landex National Curriculum Group.  In his spare time, Luke enjoys the great outdoors and was previously a member and training officer for the Longdown Mountain Rescue Team based on the edge of the Brecon Beacons.
  • Sarah Bryan (Heart of the South West) – Sarah is the Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park, responsible for overseeing the work of the National Park Authority, which exists to; conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of Exmoor, and promote opportunities for people to understand and enjoy its special qualities. Sarah has a degree in Environmental Science, a second degree in Landscape Design and is a Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute. She was brought up in Cornwall, loves the south west and has been involved in the development of policy and management of protected landscapes for over twenty years
  • Paul Redmore (Wiltshire) – Paul is currently the Farm Manager of the Neston Park Estate, a 600Ha mixed organic estate, with various rural commercial ventures including farm shop, restaurant, cheese/ice cream production, joinery and film sets!  Paul studied Agriculture at Seale Hayne Agricultural College and then worked on farms in Canada, New Zealand and Australia before returning to the UK.  He has worked on various farms and Estates across the South of England, including 6 years as Bicton College Farm Manager, where he also sat on the college Governing body.  He has sat on the Board of Directors of Organic Seed Producers Ltd and Organic Arable Marketing Group Ltd for 2 years. Paul has a strong interest in integrating new technologies into farming systems, practical on-farm research, rural start-ups and education and training young people for the rural economy.

The commission will collect and review evidence through the following process:

  • An open call for written evidence in April and May, – deadline extended to end of June,
  • Formal evidence hearings in June across the four LEP areas (dates 9, 20, 28 June; 6, 18 July)
  • Wider engagement and debate through social media throughout
  • Final report produced by the end of July

The call for evidence

You can submit written evidence directly to commission secretariat at or you can complete the following on-line form.

We welcome evidence from both businesses and stakeholders.  We are particularly interested in understanding the barriers and opportunities for growth from a business perspective and keen to hear examples of how particular barriers have constrained growth.

The Panel Hearings

The panel will also hear evidence in public through a series of panel sessions across the region in June and July.  The dates are as follows:

  • 9th June (Somerset)
  • 20th June (Devon)
  • 28th June (Cornwall & Isles of Scilly)
  • 6th July (Wiltshire)
  • 18th July (Dorset)

If you would like to present evidence in person to the panel, please complete this short on-line expression of interest form. As panel time will be limited, we cannot guarantee all interested parties will be able to present. The panel hearings will be open to the public.

If you would like to attend a panel session as on observer, please register at: 

The commission is seeking evidence in relation to the following research questions:

  1. What does the economy look like in rural areas? (sectors, jobs, innovation, productivity, demography, housing, skills)
  2. What are the opportunities for growth/productivity improvements in rural areas?
  3. What are the barriers to growth/productivity improvements in rural areas?
  4. How does the rural economy interact with the urban economy and how can this be optimised? To what extent are market and coastal town providing a ‘hub’ for their rural hinterlands?
  5. What skills are needed in rural areas, do skills issues differ from urban areas?
  6. How do we ensure skills needs are met?
  7. What are the implications of Brexit for the rural economy?
  8. Is there evidence of innovative clusters in the rural economy? If so, how can these be identified, nurtured and replicated?
  9. Drawing on our experience of delivering rural support programmes in the SW, what sort of interventions have been successful and what sort of interventions proved less effective?
  10. What is the potential for businesses to ‘scale-up’ in the rural economy? How do Local Enterprise Partnerships and government bodies identify these businesses and support them to grow?
  11. Are there specific challenges for deeply rural areas and how can economies be supported in deeply rural areas?
  12. To what extent have rural areas been able to benefit from wider growth initiatives (e.g. Growth Deals, European funding etc.)
  13. Are there any other issues relating to rural growth/productivity that you would like to raise?

Scope and Definitions
The scope of the study is the rural areas of south west of England, in particular the following LEP areas which share issues in common.

  • Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
  • Dorset
  • Heart of the SW
  • Swindon and Wiltshire

Whilst we are proactively seeking evidence relevant to these LEP areas, we welcome relevant national, regional and sub-regional evidence that address the study questions.

Rural Definition:
The ‘spirit’ of the enquiry is to explore ‘rural’ in its broadest sense to understand how the economy is functioning outside of the ‘principal urban areas’ of the region. We expect evidence to be qualitative and quantitative in nature and for partners to submit any evidence that they believe is pertinent to the enquiry. Should it be necessary to interrogate national data sources (e.g. ONS), the commission will use the ONS rural urban classification, which defines areas as rural if they are outside settlements with more than 10,000 resident population. More information about the rural-urban classification can be found here.

However, we also recognise that rural/urban data is not always available at this small geographical scale and sometimes it is necessary to use the rural/urban local authority classification, which also considers some urban areas as Hub towns (with populations of between 10,000 and 30,000). These Hub towns have met statistical criteria to be considered hubs for services and businesses for a wider rural hinterland and their populations are therefore classified as effectively rural for the purposes of local authority classification.


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