Rural communities in the North East will have a 'strong voice' says Liz Truss

Environment Secretary says the devolution debate is not being dominated by urban concerns and rural voices are being heard in Parliament

Liz Truss Environment Secretary at Hauxley Nature Reserve. Pictured with Berwick Tory candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan, left and Mike Pratt of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
Liz Truss Environment Secretary at Hauxley Nature Reserve. Pictured with Berwick Tory candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan, left and Mike Pratt of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

The voice of the North East’s farming and rural communities will be heard in Parliament, regardless of how power is devolved to regions.

The Environment Secretary Liz Truss offered that reassurance during a visit to a nature reserve in Northumberland.

It comes as devolution deals are drawn up for the cities of Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds and concerns surface that those living in rural communities will be ignored by new regional powers.

It is feared that while the Coalition favours devolving powers to metropolitan areas, those working in the farming industry will be sidelined.

But, during a visit to Hauxley Nature Reserve, near Amble, the Conservative said the contribution of the rural economy was recognised.

“I have been giving a speech in Hexham about how vital food farming and the rural economy is for our economy,” she said.

“Overall, it is worth £210bn and that it has a strong voice is very important.”

Liz Truss Environment Secretary at Hauxley Nature Reserve. Pictured with Berwick Tory candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan,
Liz Truss Environment Secretary at Hauxley Nature Reserve. Pictured with Berwick Tory candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan,
 

She added speaking up in Europe was paramount but the politics of devolution would not be dominated by urban concerns.

She said: “I think the farming community does have a strong voice not only in the policies that we put forward at Westminster but in the European Commission and they will have a strong voice in any regional power that is set up, too.”

Councillor Iain Malcolm, who sits on the North East Combined Authority, said it was not true that money handed to city powers would “trickle down” into rural areas like County Durham and Northumberland.

He said: “Part of the work of the combined authority is to make sure there is a strong rural feel to our strategy, but we would also caution against assuming that all growth comes from a city centre.

“Areas like South Tyneside are in danger of being overlooked in a city region because there is a feeling in the Government that if you give investment to a city centre prosperity somehow filters out to other areas, and it doesn’t.

“We have to have a clear strategy for economic growth, not just for Newcastle and Sunderland but for rural areas like Durham and Northumberland.”

The Environment Secretary was at the Northumberland Wildlife Trust reserve to see how plans for a new education and visitor centre at are progressing.

The Trust is seeking National Lottery funding for the £200,000 sustainable building project.

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