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New Economic Vision for Exmoor

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A new shared vision for Exmoor’s rural economy is described as 'forward-thinking’ and ‘progressive’ by local businesses and entrepreneurs in a new film about the initiative. The comments were captured during an energetic business networking session held to launch the vision last month (23rd November), sponsored by Airband at Knowle Manor as part of the Rural Enterprise Exmoor partnership.

Dan James, Rural Enterprise Manager for Exmoor National Park, says doing business in a National Park means being part of an international brand that is “iconic across the world” but that this comes with a responsibility. Commenting in the film, he says: “[Being a National Park] helps give people confidence about the quality of the landscape and the experience they’ll have. But it does also come with a responsibility to help protect that landscape. We need to balance this desire to grow and support our economy while also recognising the specialness of Exmoor.”

The vision is the culmination of two years’ work commissioned by a partnership involving business organisations, local authorities, and the National Park Authority, with input from hundreds of other stakeholders across the National Park. The project has involved:

  • An extensive audit of business activity, which unearthed 1,300 businesses operating in the area (a 60% increase on previous estimates using national datasets)
  • The largest business survey of its kind undertaken on Exmoor to explore business views on the challenges and opportunities faced.
  • In-depth consultation through focus groups, 1-2-1s and further survey work with various stakeholders, including young people, to build a strategic direction.

The overall vision is for Exmoor to have: An economy building community wealth, sitting lightly in its environment and creating opportunities from its special qualities.

A key focus is to build community wealth by directing benefits and ownership back into the local community, with success measured not only in economic terms, but also relative to the value gained for Exmoor’s environment and communities. For more information see: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/rural-enterprise.

Dan James, added: “Along with its stunning landscapes, wildlife and heritage, Exmoor is home to around 10,000 people and in excess of 1,300 businesses. The climate and nature emergencies and the evolution of digital technology represent huge challenges to future prosperity. This vision sets out a shared sense of where we’re going. It places the world-class environment of Exmoor at the heart of our economy, while at the same time recognising that businesses don’t want to be constrained by it.”

Selaine Saxby, one of the area’s MP’s, commented: “Exmoor is a fantastic place to live, work and visit and we need a vision to keep it thriving. Exmoor has the traditional mix of tourism, agriculture and food producing businesses. But we must not rule out, or miss out, our tech businesses, work from home consultants, boutique manufacturers and creative industries. I welcome this vision, which offers a framework to allow businesses to work, trade and employ, helping Exmoor to achieve a sustainable future.”

During the event attendees were urged to consider opportunities as well as barriers to achieving the vision and heard from a cross selection of local businesses about how they saw it working. They also made their own pledges, ranging from helping to share the vision with their peers, to offering support for knowledge transfer, training up young people and increasing local purchasing. Event sponsors, Airband, pledged to bring improved connectivity for businesses and homes, ensuring that growth and wealth is built and retained locally.

Ruth Lambert of the Federation of Small Businesses, who spoke at the event on behalf of their 350 members across Exmoor, said: “I was delighted to be invited to speak about the challenges businesses face and the opportunities available to them through the vision. It is clear that, although a lot of hard work went into creating the plan, the hard work is only just starting. We need to collaborate to ensure Exmoor continues to grow economically and support its residents and businesses in the future.”

Kerrie Wilson, Rural Enterprise Exmoor business engagement lead, said: “This vision would not have been possible without the input of so many like-minded people. We have seen business-to-business interaction and collaboration flourish throughout the year and can only hope these connections will continue to grow, feeding back into our beloved Exmoor”.

The Rural Enterprise Exmoor partnership has benefitted from representation from Devon County Council, Exmoor Hill Farming Network, Exmoor National Park Authority, Federation of Small Businesses, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, North Devon Council, Somerset County Council, Somerset West and Taunton, Visit Exmoor and West Somerset Business Group.

ENDS

Published: 15 December 2021

T: 01398 323665
E: info@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk