December 9 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 4, 2013
Rural businesses were challenged to make their voices heard in shaping the future of the county’s economy, as an ambitious vision for the county’s future was unveiled.
The Norfolk Rural Development Strategy provides an outline of how the county’s rural areas can play a key role in economic growth, with education, jobs, housing, connectivity and business support at its heart.
The strategy was launched at Barnham Broom Hotel yesterday, with business leaders urged to contribute to an action plan which will be drawn up to make the vision a reality.
Richard Powell, chair of the strategy’s independent steering group, said businesses had to offer their input to prevent it becoming “just a dusty document sitting on a shelf”.
Clarke Willis, chief executive of Anglia Farmers, introduced the strategy and discussed the 10 priorities for growth, including better mobile and broadband coverage, better rural jobs, and capitalising on emerging sectors. He said: “It’s very easy to stand on the sidelines of the football match and moan and groan about what’s going on. This strategy is about enabling us to play our part in the game and take part as the goals are scored.”
The strategy suggests new bodies being formed to help businesses worked more closely in bidding for funding, and for communities to have a hand in their futures.
Delegates were also addressed by Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman, who welcomed the vision for rural Norfolk, and suggested a rural champion role could be established act as a spokesman and lobby government on behalf of the strategy.
He told businesses had been shocked to find out on a recent trip to Kenya that the African country’s broadband and mobile signals were stronger than those in his constituency.
He backed the strategy’s aims for growth, in particular building upon on the strength of the life sciences hub at Norwich Research Park, but stressed that development should not be at the expense of Norfolk’s natural environment.
“We must ask how we combine the two instincts which I’m sure beat in every Norfolk heart: to keep this county beautiful and special, and invest in it and allow it to fulfil its potential. Those need not be opposites,” he said.
Mr Freeman said a “new model” of development was needed – one which was clearly “by Norfolk, for Norfolk”.
“If you can unlock support for beautiful development that we can be proud of and that will add to the stock of the county, there’s a change of mind that we can achieve.”
Examples of thriving Norfolk businesses, including those at Norfolk County Council’s Hethel engineering hub, also spoke at the event.
The hub has been home to 76 start-up businesses since its foundation in 2006, only four of which have failed, and seen more than 11,000 students benefit through university link-ups.
David Aarons, of eco-lighting company Enlight, explained how his business was dealing with global technology players including Samsung, Siemens and ARM, but had remained true to its Norfolk roots.
An opportunity to join a progressive young farmer training programme is open to all students at colleges and universities in Britain.