Press release

Somerset and Devon showcasing new opportunities in rural business

Devon and Somerset is one of five regions selected by Government earlier this year to benefit from a Rural Growth Network.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Rural businesses in the South West are providing an excellent example to the rest of the country by showing how it’s possible to innovate and grow, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said today ahead of a visit to the region.

Mrs Spelman’s visit is part of a series of Rural Roadshows taking place all around the country by ministers in her department. The Roadshows allow ministers to hear firsthand about rural issues from communities and businesses, learning about successes and challenges and discovering  what help is needed in order to support rural growth and jobs. The direct access to ministers will help ensure that rural England has a strong voice at the heart of Government.

At the Devon County Show, Mrs Spelman will pay tribute to the enterprising farmers and rural businesses that are creating new business opportunities and supporting rural growth.  One of the businesses she will praise is Otter Valley, the Honiton dairy farm that has become an award-winning ice cream manufacturer after receiving a £28,738 grant from Defra’s Rural Development Programme for England. 

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“The South West is home to some of the most enterprising and innovative entrepreneurs in the country, who have created new opportunities to build up thriving businesses. I’m looking forward to hearing about their experiences today to inform how we can best help every rural business to achieve its potential.”

Devon and Somerset is one of five regions selected by Government earlier this year to benefit from a Rural Growth Network. The Networks will break down barriers to economic growth like shortage of work premises, poor access to broadband and fragmented business networks.

In Highbridge, Somerset today, Caroline Spelman will visit a site that will transform the prospects of start up companies by providing around ten newly built business premises with superfast broadband and the services of a business mentor.  This enterprise hub is just one of the projects that Devon and Somerset’s Rural Growth Network is delivering as it aspires to create more than 1,300 jobs and boost the local rural economy by £58 million.

Mrs Spelman continued:

“We are funding Devon and Somerset’s Rural Growth Network to help ensure that no great business idea is held back by the challenges of a remote location. Local entrepreneurs will have new chances to achieve their business potential, boosting the rural economy and supporting a thriving local community.”

Somerset County Council Portfolio Holder for Economy, Cllr David Hall, said:

“The Rural Growth Network will bolster the Council’s efforts, with our partners in Devon County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership, to increase the opportunities for small businesses to make a strong and sustainable start and encourage job and wealth creation across the county.”

Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership Tim Jones said:

“This is an exciting challenge for Devon and Somerset and will give us the opportunity of showcasing our many dynamic rural businesses and how it is possible to promote new and innovative ways to achieve rural economic growth. We are hopeful that we can get close to our target of creating around 1,300 new jobs and of generating approximately £60 million of new productivity into the area.  This will also need to ensure that we develop our local supply chains and encourage participation from all sections of the community, young and old, through improved skills and knowledge transfer initiatives.”

Mrs Spelman will also announce a landmark conservation and farming agreement at the Devon County Show today.

Over the next ten years, the £13 million Forest of Dartmoor Higher Level Stewardship agreement will enable hill farmers to create new wildlife habitats and protect the natural environment of the moor.  They will receive financial support for continuing the centuries old practice of ‘commoning’ - grazing livestock freely over Dartmoor - in ways that will help its wild animals and plants to thrive. 

Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman continued:

“Dartmoor is a unique area and this agreement, that puts traditional farming methods hand in hand with nature conservation, will help continue a way of farming that has existed for centuries. It’s great news all round for the people who live and work in Dartmoor, the thousands of visitors that come to the area every year and the wildlife that it is home to.”

Poul Christensen, Chair of Natural England, added:

“This is a significant new chapter in the long history of the Forest of Dartmoor.  By securing a major source of funding for the Moor’s traditional agricultural practices and a decade of support for Dartmoor’s farmers, this agreement will help to preserve this area’s unique farming traditions and enhance its natural environment.

“Natural England recognises the important role that the commoners have as custodians of Dartmoor and we are delighted to be working with them to ensure they have the support needed to continue looking after this wonderful place.  I am especially grateful to Colin Abel, Chair of the Forest of Dartmoor Commoners’ Association, for his work in representing Dartmoor’s farming community and for all his work in securing this agreement.  I am absolutely delighted that so many farmers have joined the Forest of Dartmoor HLS scheme.”


In March 2012, Government announced £15 million investment in five Rural Growth Networks expected to create 3,000 jobs and 700 businesses.

Five public and private sector partnerships were selected to each deliver a regional Rural Growth Network. The five pilots will be run over three years in Swindon and Wiltshire; Durham and Northumberland; Devon and Somerset; Cumbria and Coventry and Warwickshire.

As well as transforming business prospects in these areas, each Rural Growth Network will be a pilot to help the Government look at how best to increase the economic potential of rural areas across the country.

Up to £2 million of the Government’s investment in Rural Growth Networks will target rural enterprises led by women.

Environmental Stewardship is administered by Natural England on behalf of Defra and funds farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land.

The objectives of Environmental Stewardship are to:

  • Promote public access and understanding of the countryside
  • Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character
  • Protect the historic environment and natural resources
  • Conserve biodiversity
Published 17 May 2012