BESST aimed to stimulate economic development of rural areas based on the environmental distinctiveness of the partner regions. Therefore the project developed and tested a new approach (“Virtuous Spiral”) by linking spatial and economic development with environmental conservation to improve the quality of life in rural areas.
Project implementation and results
Combining the assets of environment and heritage the BESST project has developed opportunities for small-scale tourism economic activities in rural peripheral areas. This led to a new and increased awareness of the environmental qualities and heritage of the involved regions.
Businesses used local environmental assets as a means of promoting their business. Connecting economy and environment and creating a well-known label for environmental friendly businesses created a win-win situation for the entrepreneurs.
One of the main achievements was that BESST increased local ‘pride in the places’. A new awareness of, and pride in their environmental qualities and heritage, and a growing recognition of and pride in their neighbours, colleagues and businesses was established.
This raised the awareness to live in ‘a place with a future as well as a place with a past’ and that the locals were able to create a better future for themselves and their communities. During the implementation a powerful sense of shared values was built up by the public administrations and private businesses. It was based on mutual respect and driven by the principle of caring for, and using, the environment.
In many cases the project has exceeded expectations and achieved or inspired unforeseen lasting benefits. A survey on the impacts of the project revealed positive effects on businesses: The marketing, promotion and networking opportunities created by BESST were significant. Furthermore, businesses were encouraged to use ICT more effectively and new collaborations created new business and social links and greater community cohesion.
The development of public projects deliberately aimed at creating private sector business benefits can be seen as an innovative feature. Two specific BESST examples have received prestigious awards: In the Peak District, the Heritage Walks book won a regional award for its innovative way of combining highly accessible, user-friendly detailed heritage information and route directions, linked to support the local economy. In Hylte, the Femsjö Octagon was awarded a regional prize for its quality and creativeness.
Another example of innovation that was BESST-inspired but financed from other sources, is Hylte’s GPS-based “Become a botanist” material. It utilises new technology to provide information to the public at Femsjö for the self-study of 150 plants in the area. The material is being launched on a trial scale at the time of writing and will be fully launched in the course of 2009.
Leverage of extra investment
As BESST developed, some ideas could not be financed from the BESST budget if they were to realise their full potential. The partners used the prestige and momentum the project had created to generate extra funding or effort to make BESST’s activities as effective as possible.
- Contributions from Derbyshire County Council, Derby and Derbyshire Economic Partnership, Severn Trent Water and the Peak District National Park Authority to the Trails Triangle;
- National, regional and local contributions to elements of the Femsjö Octagon;
- Contributions from local voluntary groups and organisations to several of the Hylte and Fyresdal projects.
Joint transnational strategy
Mode of cooperation
Impact of the project
Due to its transnational and cooperative approach, several international exchanges were carried out during the lifetime of the project. They were designed to stimulate a range of activities simultaneously in three places on an ongoing, progressive basis and to allow the partners to share the lessons learned.
During the exchange visits, the participants shared inspirations for new products and services, new ways of working and new business opportunities. Hence the participants were encouraged to think about ideas that could be applied ‘back home’ either within their business or more widely within their area.
The prestige of a transnational demonstration project, international exchanges and meeting people from other countries was a strong stimulation for business animation, building trust and team spirit between businesses and administrations.
At the international, national and regional level, BESST has shown that a low cost four-year programme focused on a series of exchange meetings and practical projects can have a profound impact. At the core of the project was a “bottom-up approach” – generating inspiration and self-confidence is probably a more cost effective approach than conventional public support programmes.
In the municipality of Fyresdal, Norway, the project has led to a political agreement that internationalisation is the way forward. The project has been recognised at national level as one of the reasons for population growth and positive development in Fyresdal. A study was conducted by Kommunenes Sentralforbund (the national organisation for all Norwegian municipalities) on demographics, which highlighted 6 out of 430 municipalities with creative strategies to help population decline. Fyresdal was among them, and BESST was explicitly highlighted as a reason for the success of the municipality.
The impacts of BESST will continue to develop long after the official end of the project. The survey findings and the feedback from businesses and public sector staff involved in the project support the idea that the necessary strategies have been implemented, so that the rewards of sustainable development will be shown in the longer term.
New tourism offer ‘Meet the Bees’ (Peak District, UK) as result of a BESST exchange visit to Sweden
Fyresdal Municipality, NO
Hylte Municipality, SE
University of Derby, UK
Peak District National Park Authority
Alison Riley and Tracy Broomhead
Peak District National Park Authority Aldern House, Baslow Road
DE45 1AE Derby
Tel: +44 1629 816331
Start Date: 01 September 2003
End Date: 31 March 2008
Total Eligible Sum: