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Action group recruits help shape communities of Swansea’s rural landscape

New members of a key body say they aim to help Swansea’s rural areas become better places in which to live and work.

They represent a cross-section of rural communities – and they include a businessman, a standard-bearer for Gower, a youth worker and a priest.

They have recently become members of the Local Action Group (LAG) that helps support social enterprises, the countryside and communities in rural areas such as Mawr, Llangyfelach, Pontarddulais, Penclawdd, Three Crosses, Bishopston, Pennard and Gower.

The group plays a key role in the Swansea Council-managed Rural Development Partnership (RDP).

Andrew Stevens, the council’s cabinet member for business improvement and performance, said: “We’ve recruited new members including those with backgrounds in the third and private sectors; they all have a passion for our main rural areas.

“The group brings creativity and ambition to Swansea’s RDP and helps maximise the difference the programme makes.

“Our latest members now work alongside others to determine the priorities for the programme within the scope of a well-crafted strategy

“They help keep the strategy up to date and relevant. They help allocate funding based on the needs of the rural wards, making important decisions helped by advice from council officers.”

To date, the LAG has issued around £430,000 in grant funding from the RDP.

Gower-based Anglican priest Nigel Doyle said that becoming a group member would allow him to help others make their dreams a reality.

He said: “People often have very good ideas about small things which could improve a community in little ways, but don’t know how to go about making them happen. “The LAG is an opportunity to see these small ideas become a big reality on the ground for the benefit of the immediate community and the wider area.”

Fellow new LAG member Amy-Beth McCarthy is a young carers officer at Swansea YMCA. She works with schools and professionals to raise awareness of young carers, to deliver training and to implement the young carers ID card.

She said: “I joined the LAG to represent young people through my desire for a sustainable Swansea where local communities can truly belong contribute and thrive.

“I’m passionate about the environment and our natural heritage.”

Rob Morgan represents the fifth generation of a Gower farming family and has diversified into areas such as Christmas trees and pumpkin pick-your-owns.

He said: “My passion is to see Gower have a strong community identity, to keep young people employed on Gower, to have more products produced here and to keep our seas clean and accessible.”

Malcolm Ridge chairs The Gower Society board of trustees and co-edits the society’s annual journal.

He said: “Useful initiatives often start with one person or a small group of people – if the action group can involve more members of our different communities, we’re likely to get a more accurate reflection of what’s in the best interests of the communities as a whole.”

Swansea RDP’s outcomes include an increase in community self-reliance, development that is less damaging to the environment and more support for biodiversity.

Key aims include building community resilience, maximising the local economy, increasing wellbeing of rural communities.

Successes of earlier funding rounds have included schemes that led to a plastic-free community group and to Wales’ first community solar farm. Additional projects like Cae Tan Community Supported Agriculture and the Coeden Fach community carbon offsetting feasibility study seek to find innovative solutions that serve the interests of the local community.

The RDP is a seven-year European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development programme funded by the European Union and the Welsh Government’s Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, ending in 2023.