A new partnership to tackle rural issues has been launched in Sussex.

The Sussex Rural Partnership Network (SRPN) has been created to provide a forum for those involved in the managing, farming and preservation of land in Sussex to understand issues, share solutions and develop best practice.

The network was launched at its first meeting at Barcombe Village Hall on Wednesday (13 April) which was attended by a range of organisations and individuals including farmers and estate managers, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the Environment Agency, the National Trust, Ashdown Forest Centre, Sussex Police’s Chief Constable Jo Shiner, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, and the Sussex Police Rural Crime Team.

The event saw discussions on a range of issues facing land managers, such as soaring commodity prices seeing an increase in diesel theft. Moving forward, attendees committed to forming of working groups with Sussex Police to find ways to reduce poaching, hare coursing, sheep worrying and fly tipping.

Opening the meeting, Sussex Chief Constable Jo Shiner said: “Rural crime is often regional in nature, with suspects moving across forces to carry out crimes such as theft from agricultural businesses and poaching.

“To counter this, our Rural Crime Team has developed close ties with other force rural crime teams and enforcement agencies in the region, with joint operations being run to target cross-border criminality. We also work closely with the NFU, the Environment Agency and a range of other bodies.

“We are continuing to invest in our team by expanding the number of officers and staff and we recently purchased a drone to help us tackle hare coursing for example. We investigate and have successfully prosecuted dog attacks on sheep and other livestock.

“We have received positive feedback from our rural communities for the action we have taken but we know more needs to be done and we need the help of our partners. Participation in this network is important and key to finding successful solutions to tackle rural crime and anti-social behaviour.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “There is much to celebrate with Sussex Police’s Rural Crime Team – the largest in the South East – and the invaluable work it does in our more isolated communities. With over 60% of Sussex classified as rural or super-rural, I know residents in these areas hugely appreciate the Team’s efforts to tackle crimes affecting the countryside, especially as they can seriously impact vital livelihoods and quality of life.

“The new network will help to emphasise how the police depend on help and cooperation from our rural colleagues in Sussex. I’m delighted to have attended the launch event and I look forward to seeing the network go from strength to strength.”

West Sussex National Farmers Union chair Dominic Gardner, who has farms near Worthing and Horsham, said: “Sussex farmers and growers welcome this forum. It will enable improved communication between the police and all parties living and working in our wonderful Sussex countryside.”