Rural economy in spotlight at conference

Lord Donald Curry of Kirkharle CBE
Lord Donald Curry of Kirkharle CBE
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Rural businesses and key representatives gathered for the first NEFRAN Rural Business Conference in Northumberland at the end of last month.

The event, at Kirkley Hall, near Ponteland, was designed to promote the work of the North East Farming and Rural Affairs Network (NEFRAN) and provide information to support the growth of rural businesses.

Around 150 delegates attended to take part in a full day that offered delegates the opportunity to meet business support and funding providers, attend workshops and listen to keynote speakers highlighting key issues facing the rural economy, the North-East devolution deal and what had been achieved through the Pilot Rural Growth Network Programme.

Key-note speaker Lord Donald Curry of Kirkharle CBE said rural businesses had a huge part to play in supporting the regional economy and in creating more and better jobs for all.

He referred to the opportunities of the rural economy – the strength of its diversity and the potential growth that tourism, culture and heritage businesses could generate.

Antony Braithwaite, chairman of NEFRAN, who also chaired the conference, said: ”It came over very strongly that a rural voice is needed to take part in the devolution and Brexit revolution that is about to occur. NEFRAN is ideally placed to undertake this role and influence the relevant decision-makers.”

The conference reflected on the Pilot North East Rural Growth Network Programme and what had been achieved and learnt. This has been used to inform new support programmes going forward.

Businesses were directed to sign up to the North East Growth Hub for information on grant funding, business support, what’s happening in the business community and up and coming events – www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk