The project advisory group recently reviewed the Rural Wales: Time to Meet the Challenge 2025 report led by Eluned Morgan in her role as a Mid and West Wales Regional Assembly Member. The panel acknowledged that much has moved on since the report’s publication in 2017, but felt that there was still merit in revisiting its recommendations, not least because of the number of eminent rural experts who contributed to it.
The report provides a wide-ranging overview of some of the challenges facing rural Wales, including the potential loss of substantial agricultural subsidies and regional development funding as a result of our exit from the EU, as well as the need to prepare for greater automation and embrace AI.
Whilst the report doesn’t offer up a fine-tuned analysis of policy or structural economic shifts that should take place, it does summarise the many complex difficulties faced in modern rural communities and comes up with some novel and specific ideas. Providing eco homes to older people, with associated locally based health and social care provision, which could free up local homes for young families, and provide employment opportunities is one, whilst using rural Welsh communities as the backdrop for the provision of English language lesson to Chinese nationals, is another.
More strategically, the report makes several recommendations, some of which – for example, promoting tourism and food and the foundational economy – are already the focus of well-advanced policy initiatives, with associated funding. One recommendation not yet taken up is the call for a Rural Commissioner to hold the Welsh Government to account and promote the rural voice in policy making.
One area where the report does shine a useful light is on rural Wales’s lack of grid capacity, which can only happen through a highly coordinated approach from UK Government, Welsh Government and grid companies. Electricity grid upgrade would pave the way for large-scale generation of electricity from renewables, enable rural Wales to decarbonise heat and transport, as well as provide the vital infrastructure needed by manufacturing companies wishing to invest.
The Time to Meet the Challenge report is a useful canter through many of the challenges that are familiar to those involved in rural development, but it’s heartening to know that many policies and initiatives now being delivered, not least by Carmarthenshire’s very own rural strategy, address some of the problems outlined here.
To view the full feasibility assessment and accompanying reports see below: