LEP wins CLA backing as it sets out rural powerhouse plans

David Kerfoot said that Yorkshire's rural areas were host to thriving businesses.
David Kerfoot said that Yorkshire's rural areas were host to thriving businesses.

Yorkshire’s rural areas are the powerhouses for cities, a hotbed for innovation and host to thriving businesses, according to David Kerfoot, the new chairman of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Addressing 200 delegates at their annual conference in York last week, Mr Kerfoot took aim at the popular portrayal of rural areas, and at the lack of understanding of Whitehall policy-makers.

The LEP also unveiled its plans to ensure a ‘Brexit bounce’ in the coming years, as it hopes to capitalise on the opportunity presented by the UK leaving the Common Agricultural Policy.

Mr Kerfoot said: “We have an ambitious vision for our rural regions, and are determined to see it realised. We want the Government to wake up to the irrefutable fact that our rural areas play a vital role in ensuring a buoyant national economy.

“We look forward to beginning close engagement with our rural stakeholders around our post-Brexit strategy and our local industrial strategy, which for us will be, in a large part, a rural industrial strategy.”

Mr Kerfoot was joined for an onstage Q&A by Dorothy Fairburn, Director North of the CLA (Country Land and Business Association), who has recently called for more powers and funding to be delegated to LEPs to support rural businesses and economies.

She said: “This LEP is a partnership that really understands the importance of our rural areas, and how they fuel growth of our urban economies across the region.

“It also underlines the CLA’s call for greater and continued investment to support farms and rural businesses as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

“The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP is exemplary in its work to champion the important contribution made by rural businesses and farms, and we would hold up their work for other LEPs to follow.”

Delegates also paid tribute to the late Barry Dodd CBE, the previous LEP chairman, who was killed in a tragic helicopter accident last month.