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					East of England Response to the Rural Development Programme for
England (RDPE)

This paper has been prepared by the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) in
consultation with regional partners.

EERA is a designated voluntary regional chamber established under the Regional
Development Agencies Act 1998. Its purpose is to promote the economic, social and
environmental well being of the Region (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex,
Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk) in accordance with the principles of sustainable
development and in the interests of all those who live and work there. EERA is a
partnership of elected local government representatives and community stakeholders
representing economic, social and environmental interest.

The aim of this document is to provide a regional perspective to the national level
consultation document outlining the proposed programme for spending the EAFRD
(European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) funds in England.

The main points of focus in this response are that:

i)     there should not be duplication of spending between the European Regional
       Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) (through the
       National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF)) and the European
       Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) (through the RDPE) as well
       as between the individual axes of the Rural Development programme itself;
ii)    there should be sufficient flexibility within the national programme to address
       regional needs;
iii)   those responsible for the drafting of the final implementation programmes of
       the various funding streams must work closely together to ensure a seamless
       provision of funding avoiding duplication and gaps;
iv)    the priorities chosen should reflect the real and pressing needs of our region;
       and
v)     programme management arrangements should be coherent in future.

The proposed four core principles for the strategy for the next England Rural
Development Programme

Question 1: Do you agree with these four principles. If not please suggest
alternatives? (page 6)

Yes, we do agree with the four core principles because they support key issues for
the region, in particular relating to the environment and quality of life issues and also
because they aim to avoid duplication, enable the most effective use of the available
funding and provide flexibility to local and regional needs.
We welcome government proposals that 80% of EAFRD funding be committed to
Environmental Stewardship in England.

With close consideration we can conclude that environmental stewardship is a unique
programme and therefore welcome the 80% level of funding. This is also in line with
the fact that the Programme should address those challenges that mainstream
resources are less suited to meet. We would however urge the Government to
ensure that Regional Development Agencies guarantee that maintenance of this
figure does not jeopardise wider rural economic development (Axis 1 and 3), in light
of the overarching Lisbon and Gothenburg strategies for growth and jobs. This is
especially as ERDF in the next programming period is likely to be focused primarily
on urban areas. We also believe that environmental stewardship works to some
extent towards achieving the aims of Axis 1 and 3. In concentrating on improving the
environment and countryside, we do increase quality of life which will in turn have
positive economic outcomes for tourism and investment.

Question 2: Are there any other overarching principles that should apply?

The programme should reflect the Lisbon and Gothenburg agendas for strong
economic performance hand in hand with sustainable use of resources and
development.

Question 3: Do you agree that the proposals in this document support these?

It would be desirable that these overarching principles should be achieved through
these four priorities although there is a possible danger that in concentrating on
enhancing the environment and countryside (80%), this is done to some extent at
the expense of wider rural economic development (20%). It is important however to
bear in mind that there are domestic and European funding streams which can also
contribute to wider rural economic development (themes 2 and 3), namely through,
for example, Regional Development Agencies‟ funding. There is some concern over
the overall emphasis on urban areas in the next programming period of European
funding and we urge Government to seriously consider whether rural issues are
being afforded sufficient emphasis through European Funding streams at large.

Proposals for complementing and coordinating with other EU funding instruments

Question 4: Do you agree with the proposals for ensuring that rural development
spending complements other policies and funding streams, in particular the EU
Structural Funds and the European Fisheries Fund?

We welcome the fact that there are requirements for complementarity with other
European funding instruments such as the Structural funds and the Fisheries Fund to
ensure an integrated approach and that funding will be targeted where there is
significant and demonstrable need.

The operational programme for the Competitiveness & Employment strand of ERDF
will be drafted concurrently with the drafting of the Regional Implementation Plan.
In order to ensure there is no overlap between programmes for ERDF and ESF and
the proposed theme in the RDPE to enhance opportunity in rural areas, it is
important for example to ensure the RDPE programme measures which will
concentrate on skill acquisition, emphasise the skills and knowledge development
actions which are specific to rural areas and are not covered by other mainstream
funding.

Theme 1: Enhancing the Environment and Countryside

Question 5: Do you agree that the challenges and priorities listed under this theme
are the right ones for the programme?

Yes, but we do need to be sure there is no potential overlap with other European
Funding streams.

Suggested additional Key Challenges:

      Secure long term environmental enhancements in areas where significant
       urban growth is proposed (linking with Green Infrastructure Plans and
       Greenspace Strategies).
      Helping deliver improvements outlined in Rights of Way Improvement Plans.

Question 6: If not, what is missing or superfluous? (Please provide evidence for any
suggested answers to this question)

Question 7: What should the balance between priorities be?

All of the priorities mentioned under this theme are important, it is however
necessary to target where we can make the best use of the resources available.
Where mainstream funding is available, for example through National heritage or the
lottery, this should be accessed to ensure the programme is used to deliver
something which would not happen otherwise.

In terms of weighting the priorities, Priority 1: conserve wildlife and biodiversity, is
very important and should be emphasised as a priority within this theme along with
priority 5: protect natural resources and priority 6: promote sustainable forest
management. We strongly encourage priority 6 and its potential contribution to
sustainable growth. Promoting sustainable energy through biomass energy is an
aspect of this priority that the East of England is keen to develop; the inclusion of
this is therefore strongly welcomed. Priority 2: maintain and enhance landscape
quality and character is also important, we would encourage a balance between
using the funds to „create‟ locally distinctive landscapes and working on what we
already have in order to maximize the use of limited funds.

“Promoting public access and understanding of the countryside” could be given a
more over-arching nature. It is important to communicate the importance of all
these priorities to the wider public, especially urban populations.

Question 8: What would best enable delivery of this theme to be joined-up with
delivery of other themes?

Enhancing the environment and countryside delivered by Natural England is in
certain respects quite different to the other two themes delivered by EEDA. Natural
England, the Forestry Commission and Regional Development Agencies are therefore
unlikely to overlap in their use of funding. Drafting the Regional Implementation Plan
in consultation with each other should ensure delivery is joined up and the priorities
chosen are complementary to each other. We welcome the fact that these three
organizations are working closely together facilitating the link between environmental
and socio-economic themes in an integrated and coherent fashion.

In addition, a single management structure would help to ensure joined-up delivery.
Moreover, establishing a single regional group with oversight of the management of
the RDPE and ERDF/regional element of the ESF programmes within a region would
be helpful in co-ordinating the use of all these programmes within the region.

Local area groups could play a part in co-ordinating, publicizing and promoting the
range of programmes at a local level. We will need to ensure that potential
beneficiaries receive clear guidance, and where schemes are cross-cutting (ie. Across
2 or more of the axes) they are clearly signposted and advised.

Theme 2: Making Agriculture and Forestry More Competitive, and Sustainable

Question 9: Do you agree that the priorities listed under this theme are the right
ones for the programme?

There is a consensus that focusing on the adaptability of farmers to adjust to market
changes is important and that the negative impacts stemming from subsidy
payments are to be avoided. We also feel this is important in securing a sustainable
future for farmers. It is welcomed that subsidies will be dependant on compliance
with environmental standards and that farmers are rewarded for enhanced
environmental performance, this is working to overarching European goals of
environmentally sustainable economic growth and contributing in some way to the
achievement of the aims of all three themes. The inclusion of the priority to
addressing climate change by mitigating emissions and adapting cropping is a
welcome priority within this theme recognized as becoming increasingly important.

The priority to invest in realising human potential is also welcomed as having an
important role in increasing the competitiveness of farm businesses. The emphasis
on skills and knowledge transfer within this theme should be prioritised particularly
on higher level skills and in the adaptability of the rural workforce where the region
has a significant and demonstrable need.

In terms of promoting innovation, the programme should allow for the exploitation of
Innovation Relay Centres and incubation centres to support innovation in rural areas.
In addition, regions may wish to explore the potential for industry liaison officers and
apprenticeships in the development of innovation, the uptake of technology and the
development of entrepreneurial skills in rural areas. It is important to ensure the link
between education and entrepreneurship/innovation and to recognise that ICT and
physical access is a real issue facing remote and disadvantaged populations which
must be addressed. This is an issue which has also been highlighted through the
PRAXIS rural entrepreneurship network and could potentially be tackled under the
priorities of this programme under themes two and three.

Question 10: If not, what is missing or superfluous? (Please provide evidence
for any suggested answers to this question)

Question 11: What other developments might shift the priorities under this theme
in the course of the programme?
   Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy
   Review of the European budget in 2008/09
   Climate change
   Water pressures either as a result of climate change or as a result of population
    growth and housing development

Question 12: What would best enable delivery of this theme to be joined-up with
delivery of other themes?

For innovative and experimental approaches, the Leader approach may well be best
placed to deliver.

In addition, a single management structure would help to ensure joined-up delivery.
Moreover, establishing a single regional group with oversight of the management of
the RDPE and ERDF/regional element of the ESF programmes within a region would
be helpful in co-ordinating the use of all these programmes within the region.

Theme 3: Enhancing opportunity in rural areas

Question 13: Do you agree with the challenges and priorities listed under this
theme?

We welcome the fact that Defra is addressing the need to tackle structural economic
weaknesses and poor social conditions and that Defra is responding to the fact that
even within prosperous rural areas, some groups and individuals are disadvantaged.
Furthermore, we are pleased that it is proposed to target this funding at
economically lagging areas with high concentrations of low paid jobs and those on
low pay or without regular employment. This is going to be very important for the
region in tackling pockets of deprivation which are often in remote areas or in areas
with a large commuting population which serves to mask significant disadvantage
within communities. We also welcome the support for micro-entreprise start ups and
growth of existent micro-entreprises providing this growth will be sustainable and
recognize that this will also require a certain level of advisory and administrative
support for those accessing this opportunity.

We would wish to point out that support needs to be targeted on the wider rural land
based business community not just on the agricultural sector to ensure that the
entire rural community is able to benefit from such support.

Again, the emphasis on skills where we have demonstrable need is welcomed within
the region. It is important that the skills developed through the programme match
the needs of the region and that the skills covered under this programme are both
region and rural specific. We also welcome the aim to increase the accessibility to
mainstream learning opportunities for disadvantaged members of the population. In
this instance particularly where there is a focus on tackling social disadvantage
through skills, it will be important to ensure the ESF programme and Rural
Implementation Plan are complementary and do not duplicate or leave gaps.

It is very important in order that we increase quality of life for the disadvantaged
members of the population that we ensure fair access to services. We welcome
support for groups that for practical reasons such as lack of transport, lack of access
or skills in ICT or lack of childcare services, find it difficult to access jobs or training.
This will help in ensuring the viability of rural communities as well as benefiting the
wider community through enhancing the quality of life for all. Social enterprises are
welcomed as stepping stones to increased economic activity and making
communities better places to live and work.

Question 14: If not, what alternatives do you suggest and what evidence supports
your suggestion?

Question 15: How do we balance focus on specific areas experiencing particular
concentrations of low pay with this problem in wider society?

In order to tackle this issue in the wider community it is important to work
thematically rather than spatially.

Question 16: How do we ensure that delivery of objectives under this theme is
mutually supportive of those under other themes?

The objectives under this theme are in a number of ways similar to those under the
second theme, particularly with regard to investment in skills, stimulating
entrepreneurship and innovative farm diversification. Regional Development
Agencies, which it is proposed will be responsible for delivery of these two themes,
will need to ensure these two themes have their own well defined yet
complementary objectives and measures to ensure gaps and possible duplication
does not arise.

In addition, a single management structure would help to ensure joined-up delivery.
Moreover, establishing a single regional group with oversight of the management of
the RDPE and ERDF/regional element of the ESF programmes within a region would
be helpful in co-ordinating the use of all these programmes within the region.

The Leader Approach in the New programme

Question 17: Do you agree with the regional flexibility outlined here?

We are very conscious of the need to use the existent expertise of local partnerships,
such as those brought together through Local Area Agreements, in the development
of these programmes and to avoid creating further unnecessary and costly
infrastructure and administrative processes. This should be partly facilitated by the
cross cutting Leader approach, axis four. It is clear there is a certain lack of
understanding of the Leader „bottom up‟ approach amongst players in the region.
However, those who are familiar with this approach believe it has been particularly
successful in addressing local needs and in testing innovative approaches to
integrated and sustainable development. Local Strategic Partnerships should also be
recognised as having a potential role to play in addressing local issues from the
bottom up. We need to ensure good communication so that this axis, which
represents significant potential, is instrumentalised and not wasted.

Question 18: What is the Leader approach best placed to deliver?
This approach has been very successful in addressing local needs and particularly in
testing innovative approaches to integrated and sustainable development. The
Leader approach should be used to support locally generated sustainable initiatives.

We favour the fact that local groups will be instrumental in the Leader approach at a
local level and that we use the existent structures, e.g. Local Area Agreements with
experience in this field. We do not want to see duplication in the governance
structure and are keen to ensure we engage and benefit from the use of existing
groups, partnerships and infrastructure. Global grants are welcomed as a way of
delivering the Leader approach for punctual actions, developed at a local level,
addressing local needs.

The Leader approach should not be geographically targeted in future but it is
expected that targeting take account of the evidence of economically lagging areas.
The Leader approach could therefore be instrumental in tackling pockets of
deprivation within the region. Flexible delivery in the sub-region is necessary to take
account of uniqueness and distinctiveness in the rural socio-economic make-up of
these areas.

Delivery Arrangements for the New Programme

Question 19: Do you agree with the balance between national strategy and co-
ordination on the one hand and regional flexibility on the other?

We welcome the proposal that Regional Development Agencies should play an
increasing role in the planning and management of the new programme as this
supports our view that the programme should be able to respond to regional needs
and priorities as articulated in the Regional Economic Strategy, the Regional Spatial
Strategy and the Integrated Regional Strategy. In terms of taking the programme
forward, the development of a successful ERDP and ensuing RIP for the Region as a
whole depends on agreement that the principles followed in supporting change in
rural areas address fundamental areas of basic rural need. These principles have
been worked on and mostly agreed through the development and drafting of the
Regional Rural Delivery Framework. This should therefore be a key contextual
document of reference in the coordinated delivery of this programme and wider rural
agenda.

We feel it is very important to ensure at a regional level that those developing the
three Axes of the rural development programme work together to ensure an
integrated approach. At the same time, we believe it is important that those drafting
the Rural Implementation Plan should work closely with the groups managing the
current Structural Funds programmes and those working on the development of the
future programmes to ensure the programmes complement each other, are managed
effectively and that the use of resources available to the region is maximised.

It is important to recognise that Natural England will be a new agency and it will be
important to monitor that the proposals work not just nationally but within the region
and locally.

Question 20: Do you have suggestions for adjusting the model proposed?

				
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