17 October 2012
Northumberland businesses influence Defra policy
The majority of rural enterprises in the Northumberland Uplands have been affected by severe weather events in the past five years according to research by Northumberland National Park Authority and Climate NE.
Businesses affected range from rural estates and farm businesses, to accommodation and catering providers, to art and craft businesses. 83% of businesses that took part in this research project stated that snowfall had significantly impacted upon their business between 2010 and 2012 while 25% of businesses were affected by flooding incidents in the same period. Other severe weather events that rural enterprises considered included low/high temperatures, winds and droughts.
Severe weather and climate change significantly impacts upon rural businesses in many ways. For instance in rural areas road infrastructure is a vital lifeline therefore particularly vulnerable to extreme weather. An impassable road, whether through snowfall, flooding or landslip, can have a massive impact on a business. It can halt supply chains in both directions, staff getting to work and customers getting to a business. All of which have a significant effect upon rural enterprises, including loss of income from fewer customers and increased costs from not being able to get stock to end users.
Northumberland National Park Authority and ClimateNE, with assistance from the KSA partnership, have led an innovative piece of research on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The project has been the first to ensure that rural businesses influence climate change policy in the future and will contribute to a suite of similar work within the North East of England.
Rural businesses in and around Northumberland National Park have been part of this research project looking specifically into rural business resilience to climate change which will help shape future Defra policy. The project identified the attitudes and perceptions of rural enterprises to severe weather and climate change and the report is now available. The findings have been presented to Defra, along with other work from the region, and will form part of their policy decisions going forward. The report lists recommendations that have been presented to local and national organisations and will inform business resilience initiatives in the future. The project would be pleased to hear from anyone with ideas to contribute.
Jennifer Hewitson, project coordinator, said: “This work has been a great opportunity to identify the attitudes and opinions of rural businesses to severe weather and climate change, and come up recommendations specific to rural areas with the aim of improving business resilience more generally. It has been a great chance for Northumberland National Park Authority to work with local businesses and identify resilience projects to develop in the future.”
Adrian Hilton, ClimateNE Coordinator, said: “By working with businesses on this research, it has helped us to gain a better understanding of the particular issues that they currently face from extreme weather events, and their understanding and attitudes of climate change. This will help to inform the development of the government’s National Adaptation Programme (NAP) which will be published next year.
“Business’ views are essential in developing the NAP as it will ensure that the activity over the next few years will effectively increase business resilience from the impacts of climate change, and maximise growth from the potential opportunities.”