Rural Regeneration Policy and Practice. Rhetoric or reality?
This is a study of the rhetoric and reality of rural regeneration in the UK. The thesis considers the activities of practitioners and policyrnakers within the new forms of rural governance which have emerged over the past decade and are now having pronounced effects on the practice of rural development. Policy rhetoric is assigned meaning and interpreted by practitioners and eventually becomes a reality through development practice. This analysis uses the concepts of participation and partnership, in terms of their function as rhetoric framing contemporary policies that eventually become regeneration practice. Micro-politics are identified as crucial processes of rural development activity that affect this practice The research draws on the work of a rural development initiative in Suffolk, the Communities First-Suffolk project. Using this project an ethnographic study was conducted. A theoretical framework is set out for each of the three main concepts - partnership, participation and micro-politics. Empirical findings from the Case Study are then used to analyse the theory underpinning the research. A gap between rhetoric and reality was found to exist in both rural policy and within its practice. This consistso f a paradox of governancein terms of decentralisation,r ules of engagement, the role of lead agencies, participation and partnership structures. The role of the individual was found to be integral to these elements and indeed to broader rural development processes. This thesis calls for government policy to recognise the disparity between rural rhetoric and reality. It thus suggests that policymakers consider adopting mechanisms to evaluate and review governance processes in addition to the traditional approach of evaluating regeneration products. Unless the rhetoric-reality gap is closed, existing exclusions, barriers and problems will continue to prevail within rural development structures, hampering the progress and activity of rural development agents - policymakers and practitioners alike.