The Liberal Democrat candidate for the North of Tyne Mayor has spoken of the need to balance the priorities of both the urban and rural areas that are covered by the newly formed combined authority.
Earlier this month, John Appleby attended a full-day seminar on agriculture and rural affairs in Slaley, Northumberland, led by Lord Donald Curry – a Northumberland farmer who chaired the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food.
He explained that the new Agriculture Bill will herald the most significant changes to support structures and funding since 1947 and he welcomed comments and concerns that might influence the final bill.
Rural community life was also discussed, including the additional costs of transport and services in villages where the church often provides the only remaining public building.
Mr Appleby said: “One of the challenges for the new North of Tyne combined authority and its Mayor is balancing the needs and priorities of the urban areas of Newcastle, North Tyneside, Ashington and Blyth with the vast rural area extending from Berwick in the north to Allendale and Hexham in the west.
“We’re proud of our beautiful countryside and agricultural industry, yet there are particular challenges in maintaining work and life in these areas.
“For rural life and work to flourish, we need good digital infrastructure, accessible services, including education, and local working space associated with affordable housing.
“Strategic plans for this area for transport, education and the economy must have a clear rural dimension, in addition to their obvious concern for the major population centres.
“As Mayor, I’d push for stronger support for small businesses, rural as well as urban, in accessing apprenticeships and procurement processes on a level playing field.”