The largest ever cross-party Senedd report into the needs of Wales’ rural economy has called for a focus on economic growth and greater flexibility in the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS).

The Senedd Cross Party Group (CPG) for Rural Growth’s report – Generating Growth in the Rural Economy: an inquiry into rural productivity in Wales – makes a series of recommendations to do this across infrastructure and connectivity; housing and planning; tourism; and food and farming.

The CPG took evidence from business groups, employers, unions and others to produce the report, with the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) acting as the secretariat.

It will be officially launched at an event at the Senedd at noon today (Tuesday, March 5).

Productivity in Wales as a whole is 16% lower than the UK average, while workers in rural Wales are up to 35% less productive than in urban areas (output £18,000 per capita versus £28,000).

The report sets out a total of 19 recommendations which, it said, will help the Welsh government address this divide, and match the ambition of its rural communities.

Recommendations proposed by the group include:

  • The re-establishment of a Rural Development Board (RDB);
  • The RDB to set out a definitive rural development strategy, setting objectives for infrastructure development, connectivity and rural skills and have the powers and resources to deliver it;
  • Convert the planning consent system into an enabler for responsible growth:
  • Review local authority local development plans (LDPs);
  • More planning officers to accelerate and improve the planning process;
  • The introduction of the approach of Planning in Principle;
  • Urgency in adopting the actions stemming from the Relieving pressures on SACs river catchments to support delivery of affordable housing programme led by the First Minister;
  • Measures to revitalise the rural tourism industry including Visit Wales becoming an arms-length body with resources comparable to equivalents in other parts of the UK;
  • A review of the terms – and clarity of the funding rates – within the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS).

Chair of CLA Cymru, Iain Hill-Trevor, said: “For too long, the Welsh government has treated rural Wales as a museum, to be preserved for the enjoyment of visitors.

“Instead, ministers should view the countryside as a source of future growth and prosperity, creating jobs and opportunity while still preserving its inherent beauty. 

“Wales needs to generate economic growth and good, skilled new jobs. Both can be delivered by delivering on the recommendations within this report.”

Rural Wales

Chair of the CPG, Samuel Kurtz, said: “Rural Wales plays a key role in the future prosperity of our nation, but its potential will only be realised if policy makers and government understand its unique nature and needs.

“This cross-party report has taken evidence from a range of sectors throughout Wales, drawing on experiences of those living and working in rural Wales.

“The recommendations put forward are non-partisan but can act as a catalyst to simulate sustainable growth in our rural economy.”

Kurtz said he is excited that this is the first report of its kind in the Senedd, and he hopes “whomever is Wales’s new First Minister takes these recommendations seriously, to deliver for rural Wales”.