TOP TEN REFLECTIONS ON 2019
From celebrating our ten-year anniversary since our management buy-out to extending our offices, raising over £5,000 for charity, the team have had another busy year whizz by.
Growing colleague numbers to near 40 and helping even more clients realise their potential and maximising opportunity through growing consumer trends, we have never been busier. We look back at what happened in 2019.
1. RURAL LEISURE – A GROWING MARKET
The rural leisure sector goes from strength to strength with demand for visitor attractions, experiences and accommodation in the countryside booming. To support our clients to make the most of this opportunity, earlier this year we welcomed new leisure and tourism industry specialists into our team, allowing us to provide even better insight into rural growth markets such as visitor attractions, health and wellbeing and accommodation.
2. SHIFTING TRENDS – CHANGE AND OPPORTUNITY
Consumer trends and demands are opening new opportunities for rural enterprise.
• HEALTH AND WELLBEING - The increasing recognition of the role that fresh air, nature and the outdoors play in health and wellbeing present opportunities for rural businesses enabling access to these landscapes through experiences, activities, treatments and retreats.
• PLAY - The importance of outdoor play for children’s development means there is a growing market for play led attractions that make best use of the landscape.
• CO-WORKING - The emergence of a new type of rural office space provision with demand for flexible ‘co-working spaces’ - enabled by improving rural broadband.
• FOOD & BEVERAGE - The increasing popularity of artisan food and drink products such as English wine.
All these trends are driven by wider social, economic and environmental factors and rural areas are well placed to meet this demand and it’s been great to help so many of our clients be at the forefront of some of these new opportunities.
3. RURAL SOLUTIONS – WE TURNED 10!
We celebrated the anniversary of ten years since our management buy-out. Seeing the business grow from a handful of consultants to be the leading rural diversification professional services provider in the UK with almost 40 professionals offering advice in rural diversification, planning, building and landscape design and now ecology. As a result, we extended both our offices this year. We saw the opening of our new office space at Brewery Lane Studio in North Yorkshire, and moved to a bigger office in Oxford, with our planners, advisors and our first architect located there permanently.
4. EXCEPTIONAL COUNTRY HOMES – THE PARA 79 EXPERTS
We have seen a significant growth in demand for our services to help clients realise their ambitions to create exceptional private homes in the countryside. Enabled by the NPPF Paragraph 79 we have helped clients to obtain consent for development with our successful planning outcomes hitting double figures this year. We have a range of projects underway across the country and excitingly we received our first Paragraph 79 design commission which is now well underway in a stunning coastal location.
5. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER – UNDERSTANDING THE RURAL SECTOR
Through a time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, understanding how landowners feel about their prospects and importantly what action they are taking to take advantage of opportunity and manage risk is a critical part of the conversation about the role of rural in the future of the UK. This year we conducted our second Rural Business Survey and a quarter of landowners, which covered over 250,000ha of England, Scotland and Wales, felt more optimistic about their business prospects now than at the start of 2019. With the results of the recent General Election hopefully bringing some stability and momentum, we hope to see conditions improve for rural landowners and associated opportunities to diversify continue to grow next year.
6. AWARD WINNING - ACCOLADES FOR OUR CLIENTS
We were delighted to see our clients winning multiple awards for our projects this year. Nevill Holt Opera won the RIBA Stirling Prize People's Vote, Wooler’s Construction won the Yorkshire Property Award for a large residential scheme for their project at Higher Raikes in North Yorkshire and our client The Angel at Hetton, won their first Michelin star.
7. RAISING FUNDS - CHARITY CHALLENGE
We raised over £5,000 for the Country Trust. This year, we were introduced to an organisation that has found a huge place in all our hearts. The Country Trust enable disadvantaged children to access farms to understand where their food comes from and learn about the countryside. Our team cycled the length of the UK on static bikes in our office to raise awareness and vital funds for this amazing charity.
8. ENVIRONMENTAL CHAMPIONS - ECOLOGY AND BIODIVERSITY NET GAIN
The recognition that the countryside has a pivotal role to play in tackling climate change and reversing biodiversity decline presents opportunities for landowners to protect and enhance the environment and our clients are at the heart of conserving and enhancing natural capital and biodiversity in the countryside. Therefore, we were excited to launch our Ecology team and are working with a number of land managers and advisers on innovative ways to drive forward rural development in a manner which enhances as well as conserves natural assets.
9. RURAL MATTERS - INFLUENCING POLICY
We are always keen to make sure rural voices are heard by those shaping and influencing the policy that impacts upon the countryside. We regularly make representation as part of planning policy consultations and earlier this year responded to the HoL Rural Economy Committee consultation. Our colleagues are involved in a wide range of organisations focused on rural matters including the CLA, Historic Houses Association, GWCT, National Trust and RSPB. We are active members of RICS, RIBA, RTPI, members of Women in Property, Women in Science and Engineering, and Young Planner Forum groups. We take great pride in our colleagues being truly passionate about the British countryside, they choose to dedicate their time to investing in its future through these groups.
10. WE ARE RURAL – PROUD RURAL FOLK
Our people are rural through and through. Our team lives in some of the most rural parts of the UK from Exmoor to Northumberland with our offices proudly located in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales and Oxfordshire. In the course of our work this year, we have travelled the length and breadth of the country – working with clients from Cornwall, to the Highlands of Scotland, to Lincolnshire, Pembrokeshire, the Cotswolds and the Lake District. At our end of year meeting, it was revealed that 100% of colleagues who responded to our staff survey said they were proud to work for Rural Solutions. A fantastic tribute to what we have achieved over the year and puts us in a great position to take on the challenge of 2020.