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South West Regional Development Agency Foreword

Juliet WilliamsMany of us would agree that the South West is England's most compelling region – as much a destination for those who seek a great place to live and work as for the nation's holidaymakers. Indeed, our economy is performing strongly; we enjoy an outstanding natural environment; and levels of unemployment in the region are at historically low levels. Nevertheless and despite its successes, the South West faces significant challenges in maintaining and improving quality of life.

One of the clearest challenges is to balance the role of economic development in raising prosperity with the desire to maintain and enhance the natural environment. Some of the tensions arising from this are easily identifiable, not least congestion and the pressure for green-field development. Other impacts of economic activity are less clear, particularly those associated with not only "importing" resources but also exporting waste and pollution beyond the region's boundary.

The Regional Economic Strategy (www.southwestrda.org.uk/res) recognises these issues and by identifying the environment as a key driver for future economic success, they are placed at the heart of the region's work to improve its prosperity. However, the absence of robust regional data and intelligence about environmental impacts have been barriers to delivering more sustained economic activity.

This is where Stepping Forward comes in. By providing us for the first time with a clear understanding of the region's resource and material flows, together with good quality data, it represents an important step towards a more sustainable South West. The overall message from the report is stark: the region is living significantly beyond its environmental means. It needs to consider urgently how to improve the sustainability of its economic activity and while this will inevitably present challenges, evidence suggests that such robust consideration will also stimulate significant opportunity.

The South West RDA has been pleased to support the development of Stepping Forward and we recognise that it is just a first step along what will be, at times, a challenging road. We look forward to playing a full role in disseminating and stimulating discussion on this report and to considering how we can all adapt our activity to support a more sustainable economic future for the South West.

Juliet Williams

Juliet Williams
Chairman
South West Regional Development Agency
www.southwestrda.org.uk