Stoke Staffs LEP
LEP chairman welcomes Chancellor’s pledge on rural economy

LEP chairman welcomes Chancellor’s pledge on rural economy

The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has welcomed the Governments commitment to ensuring rural businesses and communities can thrive and grow.

Chancellor George Osborne has unveiled plans to extend the government’s starter homes scheme to villages and to boost rural business growth.

In a joint statement with Environment Secretary Liz Truss, the Chancellor said: “For rural areas, we want better internet and mobile phone communications, better transport, better schools, better skills, better housing, better business growth and better local government.

“And we’ll look at planning and regulatory constraints facing rural businesses. In a recent survey of rural businesses the main barrier to growth that most identified was planning restrictions.

“So for a start, we’ll review rules around agricultural buildings such as barns to allow rural businesses to expand more easily.”

LEP chairman David Frost said the Stoke and Staffordshire partnership was already leading the way in promoting a thriving local economy.

He commented: Flourishing rural businesses, a strong agricultural sector and thriving villages all play all play a vital role in our local economy and we are pleased to see this recognition of their importance from the highest levels of government.

The LEP is already working hard to promote rural businesses and create high-skill, high-value jobs for local people and to build on the successes we are already achieving.

Examples of rural growth include the LEP-backed expansion of Dunston Business Village. The site, between Stafford and Penkridge, was farmland in 2008 but has since been transformed into an award-winning business park.

It is already home to more than 50 businesses, and is now adding a further 40 units in a project which has been backed by the Government’s Growing Places Fund and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The £585,000 of new funding has speeded up the process of building the units and 12 have now been completed. All of the units have already been pre-let. The expansion will almost triple the size of the site.

And this month, planning has been granted for another LEP-backed showpiece project designed to boost agricultural engineering and technology skills. South Staffordshire College is transforming former granary buildings at its Rodbaston campus into a state-of-the-art AgriSTEM academy (pictured above). The college successfully applied for funding from the local enterprise partnership as part of its Growth Deal allocation. The £5.4million project is set to be completed by September 2016 and two-thirds of the cost will be met by the LEP funding.

South Staffordshire College Chief Executive Principal Graham Morley said: The new AgriSTEM Academy will allow us to make a significant contribution to both advanced manufacturing and precision farming training in Staffordshire. By providing exceptional learning facilities and practical training that is unavailable anywhere else in Staffordshire, we will be even better positioned to help aspiring rural and engineering entrepreneurs gain the high level skills that employers demand.

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