Rural Economy & Land Use (RELU)

Programme overview

Rural areas are coming under increasing and changing pressures. The Rural Economy & Land Use (RELU) programme aimed to help us understanding the social, economic, environmental and technological challenges that rural areas face.

This cross-council research programme - involving the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), NERC, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) - was led by ESRC and had a cross-council programme management group.

Background & objectives

Researchers collaborated on wide-ranging interdisciplinary research projects grouped around four themes:

  • integration of land and water use
  • the environmental basis of rural development
  • sustainable food chains
  • economic and social interactions with the rural environment.

The findings from RELU's interdisciplinary research will help inform policymakers' choices on how to manage the countryside and rural economies.

Reports & key findings

The RELU programme has now finished and the final report can be found below. The report is split into two sections: the first section contains details of the research that was undertaken, why and how, and the results produced; the second section of the report is focused on impacts and outputs from this work:

RELU final report - part 1 (PDF, 342KB)

RELU final report - part 2 (PDF, 389KB)

Case studies

The following case studies are linked to this research programme.

The changing role of local government in managing water resources - help from RELU (PDF, 68KB)
Synopsis: The UK Research Councils Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme looks at how local government is taking on new responsibilities for managing natural resources, including water, and examines the challenges and opportunities.

Plastic fantastic in RELU drive for clever polytunnels (PDF, 66KB)
Synopsis: Crops grown under polytunnel plastic are less nutritious due to lack of UV light. A project led by the University of Reading has been finding out how to use smart plastics to improve light penetration and grow healthier crops.

Risk to woodlands and heathland from ramorum blight (PDF, 80KB)
Synopsis: Through an interdisciplinary research project that draws on lessons from the past, scientists are assessing the impact of the spread of ramorum blight (so-called 'Sudden Oak Death') on woodlands, gardens and heaths in Britain.

RELU sets up a land use policy commission (PDF, 56KB)
Synopsis: The Rural Economy and Land Use programme (RELU) has appointed two land use analysts, backed by an expert advisory group, to draw out policy-relevant findings from its research.

Carbon offsetting could fund regeneration of UK uplands and cut emissions (PDF, 60KB)
Synopsis: Working with a carbon offsetting company could reduce carbon emissions and pay for upland regeneration.