SEVEN new members have been recruited to join the North East Rural Affairs Forum (NERAF).
The NERAF aims to promote the interests of rural communities and help government bodies improve their services.
These appointments will almost double the membership of the Forum.
The new members have been drawn from across the North-East and will work alongside the existing members who have been in post for the past 18 months.
Jim Darlington, deputy regional director of Government Office for the North East said they have been chosen for the particular skills each new member offers that will help develop NERAF and assist the organisation in achieving its goals.
Mr Darlington said: “The North East Rural Affairs Forum plays an important role in challenging the delivery of public policy in the North-East.
“Expanding the Forum will help influence the services provided for rural communities.”
David Stewart, Chairman of the North East Rural Affairs Forum, added: “These new appointments join a strong group of rural champions at just the right time.”
“We are starting to work with the regional assembly securing the best we can for rural communities from the Regional Housing Strategy and for rural businesses working with Business Link North East on reducing red tape.
“The commitment, knowledge and experience that these recruits bring should make a really big difference for rural people.”
Projects that NERAF has been involved in have included ‘rural proofing’ One NorthEast’s regional economic strategy, advising on the development of the region’s first Rural Development Programme and helping establish the rural board to decide and promote the region’s rural priorities.
The Forum is charged with representing the region’s rural interests to policy and delivery agencies in the North-East, relaying the needs of North-East rural communities and monitoring and challenging the effectiveness of rural policy and service delivery.
It was established in 2005 following the publication of the Rural Strategy 2004, in which the Government announced that end customers should have “a clear voice in strategic decision-making”.
The objective of the Forum is to have a positive impact on rural delivery by contributing to the rural proofing and influencing the development of regional and national policies.
The new NERAF members are:
Mrs Lesley Allen from Northumberland.
Currently partnership officer for the North Tyne and Redesdale Community Partnership, she is also a member of the management committee of the Federation of Northumberland Development Trusts, and the management group of the Rural Voices Network.
Mrs Barbara Armstrong from County Durham.
Mrs Armstrong has lived in a rural area all of her life, is an experienced youth worker in educational settings and is a volunteer panel member or Durham County Youth Offending Service.
A current parish councillor and a former district councillor, She has many years experience in rural community work.
Miss Fiona Chesters from Tees Valley.
Miss Chester’s career has been in the voluntary sector, with a special interest in rural areas.
She has held several community development positions in various agencies, including her current post as senior development officer at Tees Valley Rural Community Council.
Mrs Ruth Dent from County Durham is a member of a long established dales farming family, and a lifetime resident of the countryside.
She has 33 years experience in the banking sector, is chairman of the South Durham Substance Misuse Panel, a magistrate and a school governor.
She is also involved with Radio Teesdale, a new local broadcasting initiative, presenting a magazine style programme on weekday mornings
Mrs Norma Foster from Northumberland is chief executive of The North East Regional Portal, the regional e-business development agency for the North East.
She is particularly committed to ensuring that information, support and advice on online activities is fully accessible to all business and community members across the North-East region.
Mr Patrick Lavery from Northumberland was formerly a lecturer in urban and regional planning at Birkbeck College University of London and a countryside Officer and professor and head of department of tourism at University of Bournemouth.
He is an adviser to European Commission on Education and training, and special advisor on rural matters to The Prince of Wales.
Rev Dr Dagmar Winter from Tyne & Wear.
Through her work as the Newcastle Diocesan Rural Affairs Officer and priest in charge of Kirkwhelpington with Kirkharle, Kirkheaton and Cambo, Rev Winter has an excellent understanding of how individuals and communities work.
She also has experience of tourism activities, as well as primary school teaching and adult education.