Tackling north’s rural challenges

Students have been tackling some of the most serious challenges facing rural Northumberland and some of their best ideas could transform the future of remote communities.

It was all part of the FLUX competition, run by the Careers Service at Newcastle University in conjunction with the Glendale Gateway Trust.

Glendale, a small rural community of 5,000, is struggling to survive as a balanced community.

There is little to hold young people due to poor transport links, limited affordable housing and few employment opportunities.

The 20 teams of six students were given the challenge of developing a business plan to help solve these issues, after taking advice from top business experts.

And it is hoped that some of their ideas will be implemented in the Glendale area around the village of Wooler.

The winning team came up with a plan to set up a cooperative for organic farmers, which would plough profits back into the community.

Other ideas, which could also be implemented if they meet with approval by the Trust and local community, included developing more services and activities in Wooler’s Cheviot Centre, building extra housing targeted at young people and organising music festivals.

Newcastle University engineering student Josh Levine, a member of the winning team, said: “This was a great experience for so many reasons.

“It was good to be given a real life scenario and have to come up with solutions working as part of a team.

“It has definitely helped build my skills and made me confident that I will be able to contribute once I start my career; the pace was so fast that we were constantly thinking.”

Josh, who wants to set up his own business once he has graduated next year, added: “The advice from the experts was hugely useful and gave a real insight into the business world.”

Patsy Healey, chairman of the Glendale Gateway Trust, said: “Glendale faces lots of challenges and encouraging young people to stay in our area is among the most important. If the younger generation moves away, this puts the future of our communities in doubt.

“For that reason, it was great to work with Newcastle University to hopefully come up with some solutions which could make the long-term future of Glendale more secure.”