In recent years, rural development in Cheshire, much like the rest of England, has been heavily steered by the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) (specifically; Cheshire and Warrington) who have implemented various Community-led Local Development Initiatives by means of a Local Development Strategy 2014-2020 (Gaskell, 2014). These initiatives were formulated as a direct result of implementing the LEADER (Links between actions for the development of the rural economy) programme since 2011 in line with the Rural Development Programme for England Network by DEFRA. Of course, the LEADER programme draws it’s funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and comes directly from the European Commission’s European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), yet it does encourage grassroots, bottom-up approach to sustainable rural development.
It is highly possible that this funding opportunity and the association frameworks that enable it to work will disappear from England after 2020. This is stated as one of the main areas of uncertainty by a recent briefing paper; Brexit: impact across policy areas; “Levels of direct financial support and rural development funding after 2020” (Miller, 2016, p. 53). With the result of the referendum to leave the European Union an extremely topical and somewhat worrying issue for some, it is pertinent and of value to understand both the practical and policy implications of rural development and the food sector in Cheshire post-EU from the perspective of those who are stakeholders (public and private).
By conducting semi-structured, qualitative interviews with a sample of key policy implementers from the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, and comparing their aspirations and future perceptions with policy receivers, actors from rural Alternative Food Networks; a worthwhile piece of analysis can be undertaken in order to develop a narrative that can help to shape future policy development.