Pastoral or Past-Caring? New Directions In Rural Policy

The 2012 CCRI Rural Policy Conference took place on Thursday 27 September at Kingsholm Rugby Stadium in Gloucester.

The starting point for this year’s conference was the sense that views about rural areas were becoming polarized – with some commentators seeing an abandonment of policy areas and others seeing it as the hearth of a revival of civic (or should that be rustic) community life. At the same time the CCRI is celebrating 25 of years of research, and this terrain provided a useful counterpoint to the reflections of the speakers.


The founder and co-Director of the CCRI, Nigel Curry spoke first, reflecting on the development of the governance of rural areas, with his opinions on the poor quality of some aspects of it, particularly with relation to climate change and the role of public monies in agriculture. He contrasted government to the innovation and flexibility demonstrated by Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs). During the questions his presentation Nigel emphasized the importance of collecting impartial data to support the process of government.

Alister Scott presented his work on the interface between urban and rural areas, and the negotiations, through the planning system that control this interface. Theses negotiations often show the differences in power and perspective that can lead to results that stifle the innovation and answers that are required.


Damian Maye introduced a brace of papers, from James Kirwan and Julie Ingram, concerning the management of sustainability in food and in the management of land. He suggested a model for understanding the processes of innovation that spring from the grass roots rather than government policy. James Kirwan demonstrated how these insights related to local food and the role of food as a ‘social commentator’. Julie Ingram introduced the project SOLINSA looking at innovation within the management of land across Europe. Part of the project was to ensure that lessons were transmitted into the formal structures of the EU to ensure that these energies could be nurtured in the future.

nigel curry and matt reed 2012

During the lunch break delegates had the opportunity to play Rufopoly, a game about the planning process in the Rural Urban Fringe.


After lunch, Janet Dwyer, co-Director of the CCRI presented her vision of the trends that will influence rural areas across Europe. Janet stressed the importance of joining up policy areas, and the European system becoming more responsive and flexible through taking a different view of the ends of policy making.

The next three papers focused on three projects that the CCRI has been undertaking in the last couple of years. Chris Short and Jenny Phelps reflected on the difficulties of getting the different agencies involved in the management of the environment to work together and then with local communities. Franz Kraus presented a study of a village’s efforts to secure for itself a flood defence system after the catastrophic flooding of 2007, through some illuminating quotes from villagers and participants. John Powell brought the trio to a close with reflections on how rural policy is exploring a mixture of compulsion, regulation and voluntary approaches to solving complex problems.   Alll the presentations can be viewed on   Through the day as well as questions within the conference there was a lively stream of tweets, commenting, summarizing and asking additional questions. At the end of the day several of the tweeters summarized the day, and these two capture part of what was an exciting day of ideas about the future of rural areas.

Fran Rowe @ruralimpact   Take hm mssge 3 #ccri12 horrid phrase ‘adaptive governance’ is what’s needed. New ways of doing old things & better ways of doing everything

Alister Scott @bcualisterscott   #ccri12 gr8 conference with a clear themes of integration or lack of it, innovation, effective partnership supported by better evidence

Programme highlights

“English rural development over the past 25 years: the limits of government” Professor Nigel Curry (CCRI)  Questions and discussion

“Managing Rural Space on the Edge”  Professor Alister Scott  Questions and discussion

CCRI: Food research and rural policy

Dr James Kirwan, Dr Damian Maye & Professor Brian Ilbery  (all CCRI)  “Grassroots & sustainable food projects”

Dr Julie Ingram, Dr Damian Maye, Professor Nigel Curry and Dr James Kirwan (all CCRI)  “Supporting learning and innovation networks for sustainable agriculture”


“Rural Futures” – Professor Janet Dwyer

CCRI: Environment and rural policy

Chris Short (CCRI) & Jenny Phelps (FWAG) “Environmental policy and integrated delivery: opportunities and barriers”

Franz Krause (CCRI) “Flood risk, a small village, and a big society”

John Powell (CCRI) “Voluntary vs. regulatory approaches”

Launch of ‘A Quarter Century of Change in Rural Britain and Europe’ – E-book


If you would like information regarding future rural policy conferences, please email