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Countryside groups unite to issue the Rural Challenge (on behalf of Rural Coalition)

3 December 2014

With the autumn statement due to announce a ‘roads revolution’ and a focus on fracking, the priorities of rural communities risk being sidelined, says Lord Robin Teverson, Chair of the Rural Coalition [1].

Calling for recognition of the national importance of the countryside and our rural communities, the Rural Coalition is today (3 December) urging Government to address three core areas to support them: the rural economy, affordable housing, and health and social care services. The Rural Challenge 2015 outlines a new set of rural priorities for the next Government.

Lord Teverson adds:

“In the build-up to the 2015 general election, we want to make the case for a healthy and flourishing countryside. Despite the enormous environmental, social and economic contribution that rural areas make to this country, they are in danger of being overlooked on key issues like housing, health and economic growth. That is why we are following up our 2010 report with a new Rural Challenge that asks the next government to do more to address rural concerns.

“With demands for essential services increasing, as well as calls for more housing, it is vital that the needs of rural populations are considered alongside those in urban areas. Last year, 486,000 rural businesses had a combined turnover of £369 billion. It is time that the contribution of rural areas is formally recognised by integrating rural considerations more effectively in national policy.”

Acknowledging the difficulties facing rural populations in maintaining essential services, the Rural Challenge 2015 shows how, despite contributing 31% of Gross Value Added, rural areas are often overlooked in national policy. The Rural Coalition believes it is crucial that central Government retains the capacity to properly assess the impact of all policies on rural communities.

Despite recent moves by government to devolve decision-making powers away from Westminster, such as the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships, rural economies remain vulnerable and are often overlooked in national and regional policies. The Rural Coalition is calling for a greater acknowledgement of the role of rural areas, and a commitment to supporting rural business by rolling out high speed broadband and encouraging small enterprises.

At the same time, those on lower incomes are being squeezed out of the rural housing market, leading to a talent drain from rural areas and difficulties for local businesses and services. To help counteract this trend, the Rural Coalition advocates a number of measures, including targets for affordable housing in small communities and more flexible public investment.[2]

Against a backdrop of the increasing cost of public service delivery and growing numbers of elderly residents, the Rural Coalition is also calling for greater coordination of health provisions and improved systems of funding to ensure better access for those in isolated communities.


Notes to Editors

[1] The following organisations are members of the Rural Coalition: ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), People and Places, Arthur Rank Centre, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Country Land and Business Association, National Association of Local Councils, National Farmers Union, National Housing Federation, Plunkett Foundation, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Royal Town Planning Institute, Rural Services Network, and Town and Country Planning Association.

[2] The Rural Challenge 2015 calls on the next Government to: 

Growing and sustaining the rural economy

Providing affordable housing for local people

Working for healthy rural communities

Members of the Rural Coalition share a vision for rural areas as a living, working countryside which balances the competing demands for growth, sustainability and protecting landscapes. The Rural Coalition is committed to following up the messages of The Rural Challenge 2015 by communicating with Parliamentarians in the run-up to the General Election and engaging with the newly elected Government.

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