The economic and structural future of rural Wales must be a cornerstone of the next term of the Senedd.
Politicians of all parties must sit up and consider the overwhelming evidence published in the Welsh Local Government Association’s (WLGA) Rural Manifesto to safeguard rural communities, according to Doug Hughes, an architect and champion of rural Wales.
The WLGA’ Rural Manifesto, launched last week, sets out seven key points to “reinvigorate rural communities.” The document was published ahead of the Senedd elections in May.
“All too often the economy, infrastructure and communities within rural Wales have been an after-thought when it comes to mainstream government policies in Wales.
“For years we’ve been demanding parity with urban areas of the country when it comes to economic and social policies and yet become a secondary consideration,” said Mr Hughes, Managing Director and Principal Architect of Hughes Architects.
The voice of rural businesses and communities must be heard
“The WLGA has compiled and published a robust manifesto that must be discussed and debated in order for the voice of businesses and communities in rural Wales to be heard.
“From planning policies to economic support, the impact of policies made in Cardiff must make a positive difference to the people and communities of our rural communities.”
The manifesto sets out seven key points:
- Support the diversifying of the economic base with a circular economy approach to natural rural products.
- Create a targeted rural youth programme to invest, upskill, attract and retain bright and talented young people in rural communities.
- Add value to rural infrastructure.
- Ensure sustainable tourism supporting local communities, businesses and people.
- Tailor housing policies to reflect local community needs.
- Invest in a Smart and Thriving Rural Towns initiative.
- Support community wealth building and address the ‘Missing Middle’.
Mr Hughes, who was raised in Llandrindod Wells and set up his own architects practice 20 years ago, based in Newtown, Welshpool and Aberystwyth, has been at the centre of championing rural Wales for most of his life.
From lobbying on housing policy to support villages and rural communities, to economic policy to strengthen business opportunities, jobs and opportunities for young people.
Don’t just ‘ruralise’ strategic policies
He added: “All too often we see government policies and programmes simply being ‘ruralised.’ This doesn’t work. In order to keep young people living and working in rural Wales, support the creation and growth of businesses, and strengthen our communities, we need new, dedicated and robust policies.”
“The WLGA Rural Manifesto is not just a vision, it is evidence that should be used as the foundation of future Welsh Government policy that support local authorities, communities, the people and businesses.
“I hope existing Members of the Senedd and candidates for May’s elections not only take note of this important document, but act on it in any way they can now and in the future.
“In order to create the housing needed for people to stay and live in their communities, or to support economic growth in agriculture, manufacturing, retail and all other sectors, we need the next term of the Senedd to sit up, listen and act.”
Mid Wales Growth Deal is just one part of the solution
Mr Hughes said the £150m Mid Wales Growth Deal that moved forward in December was just one part of strengthening the economy of rural Wales.
“But that is a small part of what needs to be done to secure the long-term future. It is more an enabler than a solution. I call on all Senedd candidates, whether seeking election in a rural or urban constituency, to consider the manifesto and understand what we need to help our communities succeed.”
The WLGA Rural Manifesto was launched on Monday, 25 January 2020. An “Evidence Report” backing up the manifesto is due to be published shortly. More details can be found at www.wlga.wales.