Rural economy business plan open for consultation

A suite of projects eligible for funding as part of the Merseyside Rural Economy Action Plan have been published for feedback.

The Mersey Reap paper seeks to unlock the potential of Merseyside's untapped rural economy. Only 42% of the sub-region is developed: 30% is farmland, 6% woodland and 25% open space.

Ideas were sought from across the Liverpool city region to make the most of the sub-region's rural assets, stimulate business, and contribute to the wider economic development of the region. The rural economy is of growing importance to the area, employing over 21% of the sub-region's workforce and contributing £4.6bn to the area's economic output.

Research for the MREAP was conducted by consultants Rural Innovation, and was commissioned by St Helens, Sefton, Wirral, Halton and Knowsley Councils plus NWDA, The Mersey Partnership and Mersey Forest.

The rural economy describes any economic activity taking place within the defined rural area, as opposed to relating just to farming and agriculture.

The rural economy also includes major employment sites and service locations such as the Science & Innovation Park at Daresbury and Clatterbridge hospital on the Wirral. Opportunities identified in the business plan include:

  • Potential to attract knowledge-based investment, new skills and technologies
  • Provide ecosystem services to support transition to a low carbon economy
  • New visitor economy product to support Merseyside's destination offer
  • ERDF, RDPE, and NWDA funding programmes in the short-term

St Helens Council is the lead partner for the delivery of the overall programme. Cllr Richard Ferry, executive member for urban regeneration at St Helens Council, said: "Merseyside's extensive existing rural land, settlements, businesses and people offer very significant untapped potential for careful growth, while the economic downturn has made it even more vital to look at using all our assets to their full.

"We hope that the proposals received to date will help us put together a comprehensive programme of projects. We will then use this to seek to draw down the significant funding that is available from various sources to deliver them, so it is in people's own interest to come forward with ideas."

Consultation on the REAP programme and the projects/ideas submitted will take place on 14 April 2010 at St Helens Chamber, Salisbury Street, St Helens, WA10 1FY.

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