Rural White Paper

Part of Agriculture and Rural Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 15 March 2011.

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Photo of Michelle Gildernew Michelle Gildernew Sinn Féin 2:15, 15 March 2011

I am pleased to be able to report to the House that work is developing on the rural White Paper. It is now at an advanced stage, and I hope to publish a draft rural White Paper action plan for consultation on 21 March. I expect the consultation document to contain a wide range of actions aimed at improving the well-being of rural communities, such as addressing difficulties in accessing services, public transport, broadband quality and speed, and the development of effective community development structures.

The rural White Paper has been developed to provide a strategic rural policy framework for the next 10 years and will help to guide the work of the Executive in that significant and challenging area. Our rural areas face particular challenges as regards growth, jobs, infrastructure provision and access to services. The provision of good communication infrastructure and connectivity is vital to the sustainability of our rural areas and important in providing the isolated and vulnerable in our community with much-needed access.

The rural White Paper shows that our rural areas and people are important; that they have rights that must be respected; that they provide enormous value and untapped potential; and that government will do what it can to help recognise those rights, support that potential and address the real challenges that exist in our rural communities. It will provide an opportunity to look at what we do to support our rural areas and to think innovatively about how we target our limited resources for the betterment of our rural communities. It is an initiative that is close to my heart, not only as a rural elected representative but as a rural dweller who understands the challenges that living in rural areas can and does bring.