ENTREPRENEUR David Kerfoot has been appointed chairman of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

He succeeds Barry Dodd, who held the post for six years, and has promised to make the region the driving force in government policy on rural growth.

Mr Kerfoot, who is from Northallerton, founded the Kerfoot Group, which is the largest independent bulk supplier of specialist oils for the food and cosmetics industries.

He said: “The true value of a rural economy and how the most successful cities are inevitably surrounded by vibrant rural communities is often underestimated.

“Government policy has often been city focused, but that needs to change. We need to recognise the real value of natural assets and invaluable small businesses that they give rise to.

“Whether it’s providing the supply chains for household names such as McCains, investing upstream to protect cities from flooding or providing the world class tourism offer which attracts millions of visitors every year, rural Yorkshire is an economic powerhouse.

“With York showing real ambition and leading the way with its gigabyte connections, we need to ensure rural areas are digitally connected so that we continue to lead the way, attracting new investment and innovation to accompany our quality of life.”

Mr Kerfoot paid tribute to Mr Dodd: “Barry has shown real leadership, not just locally attracting in excess of £250m investment and championing transformational projects such as York Potash and Bridlington Harbour, but also nationally, being a fixture on the National LEP Network Board, which has worked with government to strengthen the commitment and role of LEPs.

“We are in a great position as a LEP, having a strong track record of delivering on our promises and close working relationships with partners across the region. I want to build on this and make sure the enormous potential of this stunning and unique region is realised.”

LEPs are leading the development of Local Industrial Strategies which will set out the priorities and investments needed to maximise local growth as the UK leaves the EU.

James Farrar, chief operating officer of the LEP, said: “David is a fantastic appointment for us. We are facing a critical time, with the UK exiting from the EU which means there is going to be significant change, particularly in rural areas.

“The Local Industrial Strategy provides an opportunity to identify our unique strengths and make the case to government that investing in rural areas is essential to the success of the UK economy. David’s passion, understanding and commitment towards rural areas and small business make him ideally placed to lead this development.”

Set up by government, the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding Enterprise Partnership is a business led partnership with the public sector, responsible for driving growth across the region. It will be invest £27.1m in its Local Growth Fund projects in the next financial year to help unlock economic growth.