MORE than 30 MPs and Peers have written to the Prime Minister calling for a White Paper on the rural economy, following the publication of a major report by an influential cross-party group.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Rural Business and Rural Powerhouse published a report last week following a year-long inquiry into the health of the rural economy, and has demanded the UK Government dramatically increases its ambition for the prosperity in the countryside. The report, entitled Levelling Up The Rural Economy, set out 27 clear measures to unlock the economic potential of the countryside.

Now, MPs and Peers from across the political divide are calling on the Prime Minister to lead a government-wide effort to unlock the potential of businesses in rural communities.

In the letter, which was coordinated by York Outer MP Julian Sturdy, parliamentarians said: “85 per cent of rural businesses are not engaged in farming or forestry, and they often face structural barriers to their success.

"Given 23 per cent of all businesses in England are based in the countryside (with many more in the other three nations of the UK), it is clear that the removal of those barriers could yield considerable economic growth, for the betterment of their local communities and the country as a whole.”

In a separate letter to the Prime Minister, the CLA and the Federation of Small Businesses added their support for major government reform.

The letter said: “We are deeply ambitious for rural Britain. The countryside is not a museum, it is an economic powerhouse in its own right. We believe in the extraordinary potential of rural communities to create opportunity and prosperity for everyone, irrespective of their background or circumstance.”

CLA president Mark Tufnell said: “The country can no longer afford to ignore the potential of the rural economy and the prospects of the millions of people who live within it. Rural businesses are ready to expand, creating good jobs and opportunities for people from all walks of life – but a lack of interest from government is holding them back.

"The policies necessary to generate new economic growth are not expensive or complex – they only require political will.

“The cost of living crisis is made worse by the barriers rural businesses face. It’s time for Downing Street to show some ambition, and bring forward measures designed explicitly to spread opportunity and prosperity across rural Britain.”

Federation of Small Businesses Policy and Advocacy chairman Tina McKenzie said: “Rural businesses span a vast range of sectors and industries. During lockdown we also saw a new wave of home-based start-ups that have now taken off, many of which began life as a hobby. All of these flourishing businesses based in rural areas are a vital part of the economy that must be nurtured.”