Rural task force sets out its levelling up ambitions

This story was published 20 December 2021

A rural task force for North Yorkshire has vowed to take forward a levelling up agenda for the county.

Rural housing in North Yorkshire

The task force, which met for the first time this month, has also stated that working with Government on a meaningful devolution deal for the county will be a priority.

The North Yorkshire Rural Task Force, which is chaired by Richard Flinton, our chief executive, includes officers from the county and district councils, North Yorkshire’s two national parks, agricultural colleges, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, National Farmers Union, Community First Yorkshire and the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

It was established to take forward the hard-hitting actions and recommendations of the North Yorkshire Rural Commission as set out in its final report “Rural North Yorkshire: the way forward”.

Up to 85 per cent of North Yorkshire is classed as ‘super sparse’. This presents a set of key challenges. The Rural Commission, the first of its kind nationally, was established as an independent body in autumn 2019 to re-examine the evidence base and draw conclusions and recommendations, which would help these most rural communities, address the challenges and grow and prosper.

The Commission met twenty times, taking evidence from over seventy participants and visiting rural communities.

The aim was to bring about the levelling up of rural communities and to transform the region into a rural powerhouse. Commissioners believed their recommendations, if taken forward, would revitalise rural life, address its key challenges, bring back a missing generation of young people and create a vibrant future based around a state-of-the-art green economy.

The Rural Task Force will take a lead on the key themes of the economy, energy, digital, farming, schools, housing and transport, to ensure that levelling up progress is made.

While it acknowledges that these are issues many agencies across the county are already working on, it believes there is now an opportunity to refocus and to come together to drive forward priorities.

Richard Flinton said: “The Rural Commission recommendations are a timely and helpful challenge to us as partners and we have identified leads in the areas the Commissioners set out.  Our job now is to bring about positive actions that can help rural communities in the county to grow and prosper.

“Much of the work the task force undertakes will be the bread and butter of the new unitary council.  It will provide strong foundations for work with partners and with Government.”

The task force also recognises that progress is already being made in some areas set out by the Rural Commission.

For example, Yorbus, the demand responsive rural bus service pilot which aims to plug the gaps between the public transport needs of rural residents and existing scheduled services, is proving highly successful and is now being expanded. 

North Yorkshire’s successful bid to the Government’s Community Renewal Fund, which secured over £760,000 for plans aimed at decarbonising the county’s energy system is also helping North Yorkshire’s ambitions to thrive economically as England’s first carbon-negative region. 

“The Rural Commission set us a series of challenges and we wish to thank them for all their hard work on this and for their insight,” said Richard Flinton.

“Our job is now to move these forward so that North Yorkshire is at the forefront of the rural levelling up agenda.  We will work with partners and Government on this.  The work of the task force will step up our ability to influence and lobby on the key issues affecting the future sustainability and prosperity of our communities.”

The Task Force, which will meet next February, aims to meet quarterly so that members can share progress on the actions they are taking in shaping and meeting the Rural Commission recommendations.  They will support, advise and encourage each other in this. 

The Task Force will report on progress with stakeholders and the County Council Executive in a year’s time.