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A region vast and various

When the South West Regional Development Agency is set up in April, it will have to take on a huge range of economic and social needs.

The region stretches from Cornwall, which suffers high unemployment, up to relatively affluent Gloucestershire.

Much of the South-west is rural and many parts remote, but it also has major urban centres like Bristol and Plymouth, and good communications to the east. It is the most tourism-dependent region in the UK, also relying on agriculture and the defence industry.

In its White Paper, Building partnerships for prosperity, the Government acknowledged that the South-west lacks "a common sense of identity or effective regional institutions".

Some areas consulted over development agencies, mainly Cornwall, Devon, Poole and Bournemouth, even argued for different RDA boundaries. Concern over the disparity of the region was also voiced at recent workshops on RDA strategy in Gloucestershire.

Brenda Sheils, vice-principal of GLOSCAT, said: "One of the things that comes up about the South-west is that it's such a huge expanse from Gloucestershire right down to Cornwall.

"Therefore you've got the difficulty of not only having meetings, but also the range in terms of the economic needs of the area.

"In somewhere like the West Midlands, every college, every provider is faced with the same issues. It's very much inner-city and you've got a very similar community profile."

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