Hampshire County Council

Cabinet

22 May 2006

Hampshire Rural Pathfinder (Draft)

Report of the Director of Environment

Item 9

Contact: Rosalind Rutt, ext 6745 email: rosalind.rutt@hants.gov.uk

1. Summary

1.1 This report summarises the recent progress with the Hampshire Rural Pathfinder programme and the links with the Hampshire Local Area Agreement (LAA). It proposes further developing links between the Pathfinder and the Hampshire LAA and Rural Development Programme; and recommends a review of how County Council services impact on rural Hampshire.

2. Background

2.1 When Lord Haskins reviewed the delivery of rural services, he concluded that there were too many funding programmes and too many layers of Government involved. He recommended that Government should deliver more rural services through local government and local partnerships. This recommendation is being taken forward by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) through its Rural Strategy (2004). As part of this, the Government announced eight Rural Pathfinders in October 2004, and issued a prospectus to guide them in March 2005. This report looks at what has been achieved and the barriers encountered one year on.

2.2 The Rural Pathfinders seek to tackle problems affecting local delivery, including prioritising resources, and allowing the testing of new and innovative ways of delivering rural services with a clear focus on outcomes. The Government is committed to mainstreaming the lessons learnt from the Pathfinder projects, including across national and regional Government, within sub-regional partnerships and across all local authorities. It sees local authorities as having a vital role in joining up and delivering quality services.

2.3 Hampshire was selected as the Pathfinder area for South East England, led by Hampshire County Council as the accountable body. The purpose of the Hampshire Rural Pathfinder is:

2.4 A Steering Group involving all levels of Government and agencies, the voluntary and community sector and the Hampshire Economic Partnership has met regularly since December 2004 to scope, steer and empower the Hampshire Rural Pathfinder. The Government Office for the South East (GOSE) acts as a `critical friend' for the programme and to help take emerging issues forward with Government.

2.5 Two stakeholder workshops for the consumers and deliverers of rural services were held to help identify inefficiencies, blockages and gaps and possible solutions, and to prioritise key themes to feed into the Pathfinder programme. Submissions for projects were then invited from organisations or partnerships in the public, private, voluntary and community sectors to address these themes. As this is the Pathfinder for the whole region, project leaders include some other local authorities and regional organisations as well as Hampshire-based and national bodies.

2.6 Nineteen Pathfinder projects have been approved so far and a further one is under discussion (see Appendix 1). Some are still in their infancy, particularly where new partnerships have needed to be forged. Others have already produced first stage outputs such as reports on blockages and opportunities for improving service delivery. Changes to legislation and new ways of collaborative working may be required to achieve the intended outcomes of certain projects, and these could take several years to come into effect.

3. Progress

3.1 A number of key projects are worth drawing to Members' attention, some of which are outlined below.

3.2 One blockage to rural service delivery has already been overcome through the New Forest Consents project. This blockage was related to Treasury regulations about cross-funding between Government agencies. The Pathfinder overcame this barrier through a new approach to collaborative working amongst land managers and public bodies in the New Forest. As a result, the area of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in `favourable condition' has increased by 4,000 hectares since the start of the Pathfinder programme, accounting for nearly one quarter of the improvements in the whole of the South East region. The next step will be to use this as evidence to influence Government on the need to change regulations on cross-funding.

4. Land Management

4.1 One of the most significant topics to emerge from both the stakeholder events and the briefing by Defra concerns the way local government relates to the farming and land management industry. This is an important subject for a large rural county like Hampshire, and a number of key issues need to be brought to Members' attention. These include:

4.2 The Rural Pathfinder is tackling some of these issues through two initiatives. Firstly, in the South Downs and the North Wessex Downs, the Management Plan is being developed by involving all the key Government agencies and it is intended that all public investment in land will be directed at meeting the Plan's objectives in an accountable way. Secondly, the Pathfinder has raised all the necessary funds to run a national pre-pilot Local Land Management Framework which will enable local needs and those of Government to be articulated in one place and will include the needs of the farming industry. This is a jointly funded project with the Countryside Agency, Test Valley Borough Council, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Winchester City Council.

4.3 There are a number of other related issues being tackled by the County Council through the Local Government Association (LGA) and the LAA. These include the duplication of functions, distribution and delegation of European funds and the need to banish regulation to safety net status and encourage a more empowering approach, securing a change towards sustainable farming systems.

5. Resources and Influence

5.1 Approximately £0.5 million has been levered into the Hampshire Rural Pathfinder activities from Defra, Government agencies, the South East England Development Agency, GOSE, local government, parish and town councils, the voluntary and community sector, NHS Trusts, AONB Partnerships and others. (This estimate excludes significant contributions in kind and the resources levered into some of the projects which have not yet been quantified.) Resources still fall short of ambitions, however, hampering progress in some areas.

5.2 The Pathfinder has enabled the County Council and its partners to have a significant "hotline" to raise key Hampshire rural issues with Government and other agencies, and promote the key role of local government, working with other county councils, other pathfinder areas and through the LGA. Senior Defra officials and Ministers have shown real commitment to the Pathfinder programme. Some other areas of Government, such as the ODPM, are also beginning to engage, although this can be a slow and frustrating process. Senior Defra and GOSE officials have visited Hampshire to discuss the programme, and the Executive Member for Policy and Resources recently hosted a visit by the Rural Advocate who reports directly to the Prime Minister.

5.3 Hampshire Rural Pathfinder is about to play a supporting role in the delivery of the Hampshire LAA. The Pathfinder Steering Group is the proposed delivery mechanism for a part of the Economic block in support of a stronger economy in rural areas, and is already developing projects to address this. The relevant actions are to:

5.4 There are also other links between Pathfinder and the LAA, as in the action on the Development of Community Plans, led by Community Action Hampshire, which draws significantly on several Pathfinder community projects. Appendix 2 provides additional information on the potential synergies between the LAA and Pathfinder.

6. The Way Forward

6.1 The delivery of services in rural areas is undergoing huge changes at all levels of government. Changes to the context include:

6.2 The Pathfinder programme ends in March 2007 and will be fully evaluated by October 2007. An exit strategy will be developed to disseminate the lessons learned from testing innovative ways of delivering rural delivery through the Pathfinder, and the blockages, inefficiencies and gaps encountered (which may or may not have been overcome during the two year programme). The intention is that many of the outcomes will then be `mainstreamed' if appropriate, or will continue to be developed to inform and influence changes in rural service delivery. Changes could include, for example, organisations working more closely together; strengthening local partnerships and local delivery; aligning resources to meet shared local priorities; devolution to a more local level; implementing changes in regulation and legislation and mainstreaming other innovative delivery mechanisms that have been found to be successful.

6.3 The Pathfinder Steering Group has begun to initiate debate on alternative options for the future direction and legacy of the Pathfinder. The aims will be to make rural delivery simpler, more efficient and customer-friendly and to be linked formally to existing structures and strategies, such as the LAA and the South East Regional Rural Partnership. Pathfinder is a small part of the LAA but, as it matures and develops, there is the opportunity for its innovative approach, objectives and outcomes to become more firmly embedded in the Hampshire LAA.

6.4 The governance arrangements for the Hampshire LAA, with a Member-level Board and Executive and sponsors for individual priorities, could serve as a model for the future delivery of the Pathfinder's legacy. For example, there is the potential for a successor to the Pathfinder Steering Group to act as a Rural Delivery Board as an integral part of the LAA, and with flexible arrangements for reporting to the LAA Board. This could bring together the principal organisations responsible for delivering services in Hampshire's rural areas, including some of the Government agencies and funding streams which are not normally linked to local authorities, such as the Rural Development Programme for England.

6.5 In turn, this sub-regional structure within the Hampshire LAA could also be linked to the South East Rural Partnership, the partnership of delivery organisations which sets the priorities for the rural South East (see Appendix 3). An organisation representing rural consumers and stakeholders, perhaps based on the Committee for Rural Hampshire, could then be linked with the regional equivalent, the South East Rural Affairs Forum.

6.6 As Members would expect, rural services (ie services for people and land management in rural areas) are fragmented across a range of service departments within the County Council and this may be the most effective approach to their delivery. However, the Rural Pathfinder provides an opportunity for Hampshire County Council to reconsider how it delivers services in rural Hampshire and how it can most effectively direct its own actions and resources across such a wide and complex rural agenda. Members might consider it appropriate to develop an integrated corporate rural strategy. which could focus on particular aspects of rural delivery, or could cover the breadth of issues relating to social, economic and environmental wellbeing. It would be the strategy for the County Council's most significant activities in rural areas and how it works with partner organisations to do this (rather than a comprehensive strategy covering all activities in rural Hampshire). The strategy would analyse the issues and needs of rural communities; the gaps, overlaps and potential synergies in rural service delivery (including with the LAA and Rural Pathfinder); and the opportunities for more efficient, effective and customer-friendly service delivery to rural areas.

6.7 It would also examine how `rural proofing' could best be applied to the activities of the County Council. This is a tool developed by the Government to evaluate how significant the impacts of new or existing policies and programmes may be on rural areas, and what compensations might be made to reflect rural needs and circumstances (bearing in mind the likely costs and benefits).

7. Impact Assessments

7.1 Assessment of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act has been considered in this response but no adverse impact has been identified in terms of race, creed or gender.

8. Conclusion

8.1 The Hampshire Rural Pathfinder continues to secure commitment and enthusiasm from a wide range of partners. A number of innovative projects are underway or being developed to explore ways of making rural service delivery more efficient, effective, accountable and customer-friendly.

8.2 There are a number of key challenges to sustain the momentum and deliver the intended outcomes. These include:

Recommendations

1. That the Cabinet welcomes the progress in the Hampshire Rural Pathfinder programme and supports the collaborative approach across Government.

2. That links between the Pathfinder and the Hampshire Local Area Agreement and Rural Development Programme for England continue to be developed as part of the exit strategy.

3. That Hampshire County Council considers, through the preparation of an integrated Rural Strategy for the County Council's activities, how it can build on the successes and lessons learned from the Rural Pathfinder programme and integrate these into its delivery of rural services, so that they are more effective, efficient, customer-focussed and with greater local accountability.

Section 100 D - Local Government Act 1972 - background papers

The following documents disclose facts or matters on which this report, or an important part of it, is based and has been relied upon to a material extent in the preparation of this report.

NB the list excludes:

1.

Published works.

2.

Documents which disclose exempt or confidential information as defined in the Act.

TITLE

LOCATION

Hampshire Local Area Authority

www.hants.gov.uk/ruralpathfinder

Environment Department

898Rpt/RRt

APPENDIX 1

RURAL PATHFINDER PROJECTS FOR S.E ENGLAND, 10 APRIL 2006

No

Themes and Projects

Lead

Description

Status

Contact

Rural Pathfinder Contact

 

COMMUNITIES

 

 

 

 

 

CM1

Community Planning

New Forest District Council

Explore how the whole community can express its views on the future, and how the public sector can make better use of this information, linking this with local strategic partnerships and the new planning framework.

Approved and underway

Penny.Velander@NFDC.gov.uk

Des Hobson

CM2

Parish Plan Toolkit

SE Rural Community Councils

Develop a robust regional Parish Plan toolkit which also allows for local flexibility and `ownership'.

Approved in principle

jacintat@surreyca.org.uk

Des Hobson

CM3

Delivering on Parish Plans

West Berkshire Council, Community Action West Berkshire

Run a conference for local authorities and rural community development organisations to share best practice in the parish plan process and inform other Pathfinder projects.

Completed

PJames@westberks.gov.uk

Des Hobson

CM4

LaMIS for Local Councils

Land Management Information Service (LaMIS)

Expand LaMIS to provide information to assist other groups, including Parish and Town Councils and partners in other Pathfinder land management projects.

Approved and underway

ben.bennetts@lamis.org.uk

Des Hobson

CM5

Electronic Parish Library

Hampshire Association of Parish and Town Councils

To develop a web-based information tool for parish and town councils based on updated best practice guides for which there is already a national demand.

Approved in principle

steven.lugg@hants.gov.uk

Des Hobson

CM6

Transport & Services for Children and Young People

Community Action Hampshire

Examine the barriers to accessing transport for children and young people. Make key recommendations for improvements.

Approved in principle

elizabeth.donegan@action.hants.org.uk

Des Hobson

AH1

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Rural Housing Enabler

Explore the delivery of affordable rural housing through off-site/Modern Methods of Construction

Approved in principle

John.Lancaster@action.hants.org.uk

Des Hobson

 

FARMING AND LAND MANAGEMENT

 

 

 

LM1

Integrated Environmental Advice & Support to Land Managers

HCC (Env), N. Wessex Downs AONB, South Downs E.Hants AONB, Sussex Downs AONB

Improve the delivery of integrated advice and support to land managers through facilitating delivery and sharing learning. Two complementary pilots in N Wessex Downs and S Downs AONBs

Approved and partly underway. Project plans being developed.

linda.tartaglia-kershaw@hants.gov.uk

Des Hobson

LM2

Kent Downs Rural Advice Service

Kent Downs AONB Unit & Kent County Council

Provide timely advice to farmers and landowners seeking to change their business or land management, leading to diversification changes that are financially viable, environmentally sound and acceptable in planning terms.

Approved and underway

john.miller@kent.gov.uk

Des Hobson

LM3

New Forest Consents

English Nature, Environmental Agency, Forestry Commission

Look at methods to enable state bodies to work together more effectively for land use management in the New Forest by improving efficiency (licences, permissions etc) and explore the roles of the stakeholders in this.

Approved and underway

tony.cosgrove@english-nature.org.uk

Des Hobson

LM4

Local Land Management Frameworks

Countryside Agency/HCC

Pilot the establishment of a framework to bring together local agenda setting/accountability and national policy to achieve an integrated approach to land management outside of protected landscapes. Test in the Hampshire Downs.

Project being developed

Countryside Agency

Merrick Denton-Thompson

LM5

Historic Farmsteads

English Heritage

Develop practical guidance and a tool kit on the management of those features of historic farm/buildings that can contribute to local countryside character.

Project Plan approved

Jeremy.Lake@english-heritage.org.uk

Des Hobson

BF1

BIOFUELS

Country Land and Business Association/ National Farmers Union

Look at opportunities to use and promote crops to make biofuels eg "bio-diesel" from oilseed rape.

Approved in principle. Project being developed

Andrew Martin: farming@rmfarms.co.uk

Des Hobson

LF1

LOCAL FOOD PROCUREMENT

Hampshire Fare

Overcome the substantial blockages preventing the public sector from using more locally produced food.

Approved and underway

frances.stokes@hants.gov.uk

Rosalind Rutt

FW1

FARM WASTE

HCC (Environment)

Simplify the regulations on the on-farm management of agriculture waste, (including using Local Development Orders), with a pilot in Hampshire to allow farmers to dispose of their waste in an environmentally sensitive way.

Approved and underway

richard.read@hants.gov.uk

Rosalind Rutt

 

COUNTRYSIDE ACCESS

 

 

 

 

CA1

Local Countryside and Greenspace Network

HCC Countryside Service

Provide high quality access to the countryside in and near towns. Create a network to co-ordinate and prioritise actions and funding for countryside access, deliver projects and link with spatial plans.

Approved in principle. Discussions underway

jo.hale@hants.gov.uk

Rosalind Rutt

CA2

Public Access in the Countryside - Clearing the Way

HCC Countryside Service

Bring together systems of accountability, agenda setting, funding streams and regulation to improve access to the countryside and ensure action.

Approved in principle. Discussions underway

andrew.t.smith@hants.gov.uk

Rosalind Rutt

 

THE COAST

 

 

 

 

CO1

Coastal Consents

Chichester Harbour Conservancy & HCC (Env)

Address duplication and inefficiencies in the complex procedures to obtain consent for work on the coast. Possible pilots for Chichester Harbour and the River Hamble.

Approved and underway

alan.inder@hants.gov.uk

Rosalind Rutt

CO2

Coastal Realignment

HCC (Env)

Simplify the range of consents and funding streams required to achieve coastal realignment. Possible pilot with sympathetic land owner.

Approved in principle

alan.inder@hants.gov.uk

Rosalind Rutt

UNDER DISCUSSION

GO1

Governance

Defra

Develop a formal relationship between the new Commission for Rural Communities at the LGA's Rural Commission. To improve accountability evidence and use of resources.

To be submitted

tba

Merrick Denton-Thompson

APPENDIX 2

The Hampshire Local Area Agreement and Rural Pathfinder

1. The Hampshire Local Area Agreement (LAA) with Government provides an opportunity for linkage with the Hampshire Rural Pathfinder. Both initiatives have complementary aims of improving service delivery, efficiency, partnership working, meeting local priorities and central/local relations. The Pathfinder differs from the LAA particularly in that it focuses on rural delivery (whilst making the link between town and country) and has been given considerable freedom by Government to test innovative ways of tackling blockages, inefficiencies and gaps in rural service delivery.

2. The Government's `Local Area Agreements Guidance' (2005) states that "The LAA and pathfinder can fit well together to provide a comprehensive approach to rural delivery of mainstream services in rural areas" (para. 118 - see Appendix 2). The Guidance (in Annex A) also lists the funding sources covered by the Rural Pathfinders amongst the funds that can be pooled or aligned locally by an LAA. Defra is "keen to explore the synergies between the rural pathfinders and the LAAs" (internal Defra paper, 19 May 2005), and is committed to evaluating the current limited experience of linking the two and helping to develop linkages in the next round of LAAs.

3. The Pathfinder only runs until March 2007, and there are questions as to how the lessons learned will be taken forward or mainstreamed after the programme comes to an end. The LAA may well give the opportunity to mainstream some of the lessons learned from the Pathfinder on how to overcome blockages, gaps and inefficiencies to improve rural service delivery. These could include, for example, organisations working more closely together; strengthening local partnerships and local delivery; aligning resources to meet shared local priorities; devolution to a more local level; implementing shared changes in regulation and legislation and mainstreaming other innovative delivery mechanisms that have been found to be successful.

APPENDIX 3

The Strategic Roles of SERAF, SERP and RDF (South East)

1. Rural Delivery Framework (South East)

2. South East Rural Partnership

3. South East Rural Affairs Forum