Councillor Ray Ellis
I am delighted that Hampshire County Council has recognised the need for a Cabinet member to have responsibility for the development of rural policy. For many years Hampshire County Council has developed initiatives to assist our rural communities and economy but, due to the lack of focus on a comprehensive overall rural delivery strategy, public awareness and perception of these initiatives has often been limited. We now want to develop such a strategy and to do so with our partners who are so heavily involved in rural areas.
Central Government policies have often had an emphasis on urban communities and inner cities problems and although some limited attempts have been made to 'rural proof',much more attention needs to be given to the specific problems and issues arising in our rural communities. Some of the key issues which need to be addressed are; affordable housing; transportation and access to larger towns; facilities for young people and locally available facilities for essential shopping and services. In addition problems associated with isolated areas of rural deprivation and of capital rich but income poor people, need to be addressed.
Sustaining the quality of our countryside and access to it is an important goal and depends heavily upon the farming and forestry sectors which are undergoing a period of great change. Equally we will need to develop close relationships with the developing National Parks in Hampshire when considering that over 30% of our land area has National Park or Area of Outstanding National Beauty status.
I am also attempting to influence national and regional policy through the Local Government Association Rural Commission which has elected me to its national Rural Policy Group. I feel that my previous experience of dealing with the rural problems of developing countries, during my service as a World Bank Officer, will assist me with the considerable task ahead.
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