Brian Wilson Associates has unparalleled experience of rural policy and rural proofing. Brian himself spent years at the centre of rural policy, as a Director at the Commission for Rural Communities and its predecessor, the Countryside Agency.
He led the policy team which introduced rural proofing and has remained close to the subject. As a consultant he has undertaken projects to review and support rural proofing in central Government, and to produce guidance for use by those undertaking rural proofing at a local level.
England’s rural areas are subject to major demographic, economic and social changes. The rural population is ageing. Demand for housing outstrips supply, making prices unaffordable for many. And whilst rural economies continue to diversify, access to broadband remains a key issue and many rural employees experience low wages. Budget and other pressures on local services, including public transport, can leave some isolated. Yet rural communities are often resourceful and willing to act locally.
In Summer 2015 Defra published a Rural Productivity Plan document outlining the policy actions that Government is taking or intends to take to promote the rural economy and stimulate growth in rural areas. Government is also implementing its response to a review of rural proofing by Lord Cameron of Dillington.
A key plank of rural policy delivery is the work of LEADER groups across rural England who offer grants to rural businesses and (non public) service providers, to support growth and innovation. This is part of the EU funded Rural Development Programme for England.
The Government’s Localism Act 2011 introduced various measures of interest to rural communities and their local (parish and town) councils, including a set of Community Rights and statutory Neighbourhood Planning. Brian Wilson Associates has undertaken a range of related work to support parish and town councils, producing good practice and guidance material for the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).