Update 15th March 2012

Posted by: Jeremy Garside

On Wednesday 14th March, I was very pleased to attend the launch of the Food Farming and
Rural Affairs Tees Valley Network
 organised by Tees Valley Rural Community Council (TVRCC).

This is one of fourteen Rural Farming and Food Networks supported by Defra in England, with
neighbouring Networks established to cover the whole of Yorkshire and the combined area of
Northumberland and Durham. (See map of Rural and Farming Networks (PDF) ) It is excellent that
TVRCC was successful in their bid for a Network for the Tees Valley.

The launch included a keynote speech from Victoria Catesby who is Defra’s North East specialist
advisor on the Rural Development Programme. She explained how the Networks will sit alongside
other new bodies including Local Nature Partnerships, Local Enterprise Partnerships and RDPE
Local Action Groups (Rural Development Programme England – which in our case is the North
York Moors and Coast “LEADER” Local Action Group). Victoria described these as Defra’s new
strategic “architecture”.

Government Ministers are particularly keen to use the Networks to communicate directly with rural
interests. They have committed to meet personally with the chairs of each Network at least once
a year. A first meeting has already been held with Richard Benyon MP, Parliamentary Under-
Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries.

The Tees Valley Network is planning to develop a structure around three thematic groups covering
Economy, Social & Community and Environment. There is clearly a need to establish a good link
with our emerging Local Nature Partnership, but it is also worth remembering that the Network
needs to be clearly focussed on rural issues and that these often get less prominence in an area
like ours that has such a large conurbation at its core. I was pleased to be asked to facilitate an
Environment themed workshop at the launch and would like to continue to contribute to the work
and development of the Network.

Defra is not funding Rural Farming and Food Networks and, for the time being, TVRCC is having to
underwrite the costs of establishing the Network here.

The launch also received a presentation on the Tees Valley Rural Broadband Plan from Stephen
Catchpole, Managing Director of Tees Valley Unlimited. Representatives of the Moors and Coast
Local Action Group were also in attendance so with them, the LEP and LNP all present it just goes
to show how joined-up we are in the Tees Valley!

More information is available on Farming and Rural Networks and other rural developments on
Defra’s website.