A York area MP is demanding better planning, internet and other initiatives to help boost the rural economy.

Julian Sturdy (Con- York Outer) has made the plea as part of a major report on ‘levelling up’ the rural economy by a cross-party group of MPs.

The report says rural areas are almost a fifth less productive than the UK average and if the gap can be plugged, there would be a £43bn boost to the UK economy.

Published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Rural Powerhouse, of which Mr Sturdy is vice-chairman, the group took evidence from more 50 industry bodies, charities, campaign groups, companies, academics and business leaders.

The report said the countryside has a broken planning system which fails its residents. Defra is unable to make enough changes to boost the rural economy. A lack of skilled jobs is causing a ‘rapid brain drain’ and urgent action was needed to address labour shortages.

Furthermore, the report also accused central government of backing away from pledges to provide full-fibre and 4G to rural areas.

Mr Sturdy commented: “This report sets out a comprehensive growth plan, one that will create jobs, spread opportunity and strengthen small towns and villages across the country. We recognise the unique set of challenges that the Government is facing at the moment, but this makes the need to grow and strengthen the rural economy more, not less important.”

In a foreword to the report with APPG co-chair Lord Cameron of Dillington, the pair said the report was the most comprehensive inquiry into rural productivity in many years and “the overwhelming consensus was that no government in recent memory has had a programme to unlock the social and economic potential of the countryside.”

The pair also said called it urgent to ‘level up’ the countryside as rural wages were lower than urban ones and housing less affordable.

Poverty is more dispersed in rural areas, making it harder to combat, while the depth of rural fuel poverty is more extreme than those facing similar circumstances in towns and cities.”

The report did not intend to criticise government but their foreword said the countryside was ‘not a museum’ but “an important part of the national economy that deserves to succeed.”

But it was being held back by poor broadband, poor planning, poor skills and a complex tax system.

Government ministers and departments need to work together to tackle issues, and the report was “the first step in our attempts to help the government match those ambitions, and finally unlock the potential of the countryside,” they said.

Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Landowners Association, said the UK could not ignore the potential of the countryside and its millions of residents: “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.”

Further details of the report can be found at https://www.cla.org.uk/