When discussing our rural economy in the East and here in Suffolk, it is often in reference to its net contribution to the national economy; a unique selling point of our region. However, I am keen to draw the discussion towards how our rural economy can serve everyone. I am talking, not just in terms of funds, but about creating a sustainable system from homes to highways and from farm to fork.
Alarmingly, every year fifteen million tonnes of food waste is generated. Therefore, developing a sustainable community system is as much a question of innovation as it is about rethinking, for us, what our rural economy can do.
For instance, looking beyond the basic reliance on farming for food, and thinking more about how food and waste can service our environment through anaerobic digestion (breakdown of biodegradable material by microorganism) or be repurposed to feed our livestock.
This simple and innovative example of a ‘whole-system approach’, is being taken up here in Suffolk; from leading businesses like Muntons and Adnams, to local heroes like ‘The Rubbish Diet’ writer Karen Cannard.
Yet, for Suffolk innovators removed from business enablers centred on London, we need to find a way to aid and enable our best and brightest, to help create and maximise a sustainable system.
This is why measures like an improved A14 or broadband infrastructure, are more than just about customer satisfaction. It is about allowing the flow of goods, capital, services, and ideas to and from the East.
Furthermore, infrastructure fit for purpose can support the development of local homes for both our families and communities. A sustainable vision would encourage homes to be developed using local skills, and with our local communities at their heart.
Already we bring together councils, developers and businesses to deliver infrastructure, but we need to go further. Using local skills to build homes in keeping with our rural towns and villages, with the broadband and infrastructure expected of modern living, has the potential to boost existing areas whilst overcoming the rural challenges we face.
Although largely still in discussion, developing a sustainable economy with these key drivers can move our economy forward and at the same time, keep our local communities vibrant and special. However, this must balance the needs and interest of our areas; building consensus towards a shared local vision.
Already we have some excellent business innovators delivering practical sustainability into aspects of everyday life. This we need more of; creating an environmentally sustainable and dynamic community model, optimising the way we deliver the homes for the communities of tomorrow.
Published in the Bury Free Press