The Marches Forward Partnership has moved at pace since its launch in November 2023.

Taking learning from its first members and partners event to help shape a Marches Manifesto, the Partnership is preparing to present proposals to both English and Welsh Governments in a few months’ time.

The Partnership launched in 2023 with a plan to unlock new investment into the English and Welsh border region that is home to 750,000 people.

The event at Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, brought the four founding councils - Herefordshire, Monmouthshire County, Powys County and Shropshire, together with partners including representatives from government, business , farming and food producers, land managers, transport experts and environmentalists.

Attendees were asked for their input on the partnership’s four key themes:

  • Nature, Energy & Climate Adaptation – Looking at opportunities based around the natural environment, and current and future challenges to the climate, energy and nature.
  • Transport & Digital Connectivity - Improving infrastructure and connectivity across the Marches to give better access to jobs, education and opportunities.
  • Health, Housing & Skills - Focusing on the sustainability and well-being of communities, skills development in response to employers needs and accelerated housing delivery.
  • Food, Development & Visitor Economy- Encouraging economic growth of our economy, developing and promoting the region’s unique offer.

The Partnership is now working with innovative think-tank, the New Economic Foundation, to analyse data and demonstrate how the Partnership will provide a unique model for future growth and prosperity within the Marches region. The draft “Marches Manifesto” will be used to shape discussions with both Government departments in Cardiff and Westminster helping to drive forward effective cross border working.

On behalf of all the council leaders, Councillor Jonathan Lester, Leader Herefordshire Council, said: “We all recognise the unique value of the Marches as the gateway between England and Wales. We cover over 80 per cent of the English/Welsh borderland with a population of more than 750,000 people and a sizeable rural economy. 

“And although we appreciate the remarkable benefits of living and working in such a beautiful, rural region, we also understand that we’re at a collective turning point with ever increasing demands for our services, expensive infrastructure and service provision. With issues to address due to the challenges of rural living there has never been a better time for a new strategic approach. We are ripe for sustainable growth.

“We believe there are significant economic benefits by us joining forces to work across parties, across counties and across borders for funding and investment from the UK and Welsh governments. We want to share our enthusiasm for what we’re looking to achieve and demonstrate our unified approach.

“The event showed that there are some very exciting opportunities for the region and the Marches Forward Partnership will be making representations in both Cardiff and Whitehall to seize every opportunity we can.”

The Marches Forward Partnership website is now live and will provide a highlights report of the members and partners event: and

Published: 20th May 2024