Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and its eleven partners spread across Europe launched the three-year collaborative Rural Alliances project at the Millennium Centre in Wales’ capital city on Tuesday, June 19.
The new scheme will support rural enterprises and communities, inspiring them to work together in new alliances to generate new business opportunities, safeguard rural services and make their local areas special places for people to visit, live and raise their families.
The flagship Rural Alliances initiative was officially launched with an opening two-day conference that saw delegates from across North West Europe head to Wales for an exciting programme showcasing how the initiative will drive positive change in rural communities.
Among the distinguished speakers on the first day of the Conference in Cardiff was a pre-recorded speech given by Environment Minister John Griffiths AM, along with Sir Brian Unwin, Prof Geoffrey Ashworth and Prof Terry Marsden (from Cardiff University). Local experts from the Valleys Regional Park and the project’s academic partners at Trinity St David’s University also highlighted their work.
The conference’s second day saw delegates leave Cardiff for the beautiful Brecon Beacons to participate in workshops based in communities within the National Park.
The Rural Alliances scheme aims to regenerate rural areas and promote best practice between different EU regions, and is backed by the Welsh Government.
The Brecon Beacons will benefit from €0.5million (£400,000) allocated to Wales through the project under the EU’s Interreg IVB North West Europe programme. On top of this, the Welsh Government will invest over €400,000 (£320,000) through its Targeted Match Fund.
As leaders of the Rural Alliances project, Brecon Beacons National Park Authority will focus its efforts on enabling tourism clusters to make links with their local communities in order to better manage and develop opportunities, including green tourism and the impact of demographic change in their communities.
Speaking about the conference, Environment Minister John Griffiths, said: “As a Government we have made a commitment to seek to ensure that rural communities remain vibrant, and are able to offer people an excellent quality of life with access to high quality employment, affordable housing and public services.
“Sustainable development is the Welsh Government’s central organising principle, and we are in the process of developing a Sustainable Development Bill to legislate for extending this to all public bodies in Wales. The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, as with each of the three Park Authorities in Wales, has long been signed up to our Sustainable Development Charter so they are already leading the way in this area.”
Mrs Julie James, Chairman of Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, said: “The launch of the Rural Alliances initiative sees an exciting new dawn for our rural communities, and what we hope will be a wonderful example of a partnership approach to generating new business, employment and tourism, as well as protecting our special landscapes.
“Brecon Beacons National Park Authority is excited and proud to take the lead with this forward-thinking new scheme, which we hope will breathe new life into rural communities not just here in Wales, but across Europe also.”
Rural Alliances builds on the success of the work achieved by the COLLABOR8 Project – a project also backed by Interreg IVB North West Europe Programme which finishes at the end of June 2012.