Rural productivity in Wales: new report launched

CLA Cymru Senior Policy Adviser Fraser McAuley summarises the latest Senedd Cross Party Group report and what the findings mean for rural Wales
welsh village

This week saw the launch of the Senedd’s Cross Party Group (CPG) report ‘Generating Growth in the Rural Economy: an inquiry into rural productivity in Wales’ in Cardiff. This was a significant milestone for the group and for CLA Cymru, in view of the challenges the rural economy is facing across Wales.

The CPG for rural growth was set up in 2022 following the success of the Rural Powerhouse campaign in England and Wales and aimed to develop a Welsh-specific plan for the countryside. Productivity in Wales as a whole is 16% lower than the UK average, while workers in rural Wales are up to 35% less productive than in urban areas (output £18,000 per capita versus £28,000).

The report is the culmination of over a year’s work for the group and CLA Cymru who acted as the secretariat. Following the groups creation, the first-ever inquiry into rural productivity in Wales started in 2022. Over four meetings, focusing on different aspects of the rural economy, the inquiry took evidence from industry experts, key stakeholder organisations, academics, local authorities and Ministers of the Senedd (MSs) from all parts of rural Wales. The inquiry examined the barriers to improving rural economic growth and recommended non-partisan and tangible solutions to the Welsh Government that will reduce the rural-urban productivity gap. Supporting the rural economy as the first inquiry of its kind, the group established four key areas to examine that, if improved, would have the biggest effect on productivity. These four areas were:

  • Infrastructure and connectivity
  • Housing and planning
  • Tourism
  • Food and farming

At each session, experts from these specific sectors were invited to speak, identify the key barriers to productivity and how they could be overcome. Alongside the oral evidence, stakeholder organisations were invited to submit written evidence. All contributions were collated, analysed and incorporated into the inquiry report launched this week.

There are 19 recommendations spanning these key themes and we urge all those living and working in the countryside to read the report. Some of the most prominent recommendations included:

  • The re-establishment of a Rural Development Board (RDB) in conjunction with key stakeholders, to act as a focal point for facilitating rural growth, sensitive to sub-regional zones.
  • The RDB to set out a definitive rural development strategy, setting objectives for infrastructure development, connectivity and rural skills and have the powers and resources to deliver it.
  • A raft of measures to enable the planning consent system to become an enabler for responsible growth: reviewed local authority local development plans (LDPs), more planning officers to accelerate and improve the planning process, and the introduction of the positive approach of Planning in Principle to enable investment to be made and development to take place.
  • Urgency in adopting the actions stemming from the Relieving pressures on SACs river catchments to support delivery of affordable housing programme led by the First Minister.
  • Measures to revitalise the rural tourism industry. Visit Wales to become an arms-length body with resources comparable to equivalents in other parts of the UK, the body should include representatives from the sector. Impact assessments must be undertaken of recent fiscal initiatives and appropriate exemptions should be made to the 182-day threshold for business tax on tourist accommodation.
  • A review of the terms – and clarity of the funding rates – within the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) to ensure it can continue to support this fundamental pillar of the rural economy is truly sustainable. The recommendation includes a demand for greater flexibility on the proposals to commit farms to 10% cover of trees and habitats.

The report launch saw a number of MSs attend alongside the key stakeholders and members across the themes identified within the report. Presentations from Samuel Kurtz MS, chair of the CPG, Professor Terry Marsden Cardiff University and Iain Hill-Trevor CLA Cymru Chair concurred that the need for a plan for rural Wales was needed more than ever and the report provided key recommendations that could provide real change.

While launch of the report is a significant milestone, the real work starts now. All MSs across Wales, rural ministers, senior civil servants, key stakeholders and rural local authorities have been sent a physical copy of the report and the CLA team will be setting up briefings with individuals and organisations to get the messages highlighted by the report across to Welsh Government. If you wish to discuss the report and its findings please contact

Largest ever cross-party Senedd investigation into the needs of the rural economy

Find out more and read the report

Key contact:

Fraser McAuley
Fraser McAuley Senior Policy Adviser, CLA Cymru