The Rural Regeneration Zone’s impact on Shropshire has been hailed a role model for other areas by the government’s leading figure on rural issues.
Dr Stuart Burgess, chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities and the government’s Rural Advocate, made his comments when he visited the county and spoke passionately about a booming enterprise culture and ability to deliver facilities to isolated individuals.
He praised the work of Advantage West Midlands’ Rural Regeneration Zone (RRZ) for galvanising public and private sector support and delivering projects with an impact on people in the area.
“It is vitally important we see how each region is addressing key issues, such as social inclusion, providing support to its business community and making technology accessible to everyone,” said Dr Burgess.
“Having spent an entire day in Shropshire, I can safely say that the area is one of the most advanced when it comes to pioneering regeneration work and I saw firsthand a number of best practice examples I will share with other places in the country.
“I am also hugely impressed with the way the RRZ has been given the authority and necessary funding to develop initiatives purely aimed at tackling rural issues and these are making a real difference to people‘s lives.”
Dr Burgess’s visit was hosted by RRZ chairman Peter Pawsey and started with a trip to Ludlow Brewing Co, where he sampled real ale and found out more about redundant building grants.
The scheme helped Gary Walters to turn a disused building into a fully functional and thriving micro brewery, selling hundreds of thousands of beers every year.
From here, the government’s rural advocate dropped in at the Evans Easyspace Enterprise Network Centre in Ludlow and then held a Q&A session with business and community partners, who provided an insight into similar activity in Herefordshire and parts of Worcestershire.
The final visits of the day were to Ludlow Food Centre and to a multi-use facility in Craven Arms, which is currently undergoing a £600,000 facelift that, when complete, will provide new leisure, healthcare and educational services.
“It was an excellent snapshot of how Shropshire is developing and ensuring the rural parts of the county get exactly the same sort of facilities and opportunities as its urban towns,” he added.
“Each stop on the tour provided excellent real-life stories of entrepreneurial brilliance, innovative thinking, total commitment and, most importantly, an understanding of how local people can benefit.
“Whilst every part of the visit was memorable, I have to say that in all my trips I have never seen anything like the Ludlow Food Centre before. An amazing feat of local businesses working together has created more than 80 jobs and provided a truly wonderful place where food grown locally can be showcased,” added Dr Burgess.
“I especially appreciated how the owners had used an on-site restaurant to generate the revenue needed to keep the Post Office open.”
The Rural Regeneration Zone was set up by Advantage West Midlands to tackle economic, regeneration and social inclusion in Herefordshire, Shropshire and parts of Worcestershire.
Significant funding will be invested into building on the organisation’s five key priorities areas in 08/09, including land and property, environmental economy, multi-use facilities, enterprise centre networks and social inclusion.