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?