‘Don’t forget us!’ say young people in our new CPRE report

13th October 2021

Brand new research that we commissioned from YouGov has shown that rubbish public transport, not enough affordable housing and feelings of loneliness mean that only two in five young people expect to stay in the countryside over the next five years.

The government’s much-vaunted ‘levelling up’ agenda might come too late for the 1,019 people aged 16-25 that we surveyed.

In the research in our new report about young people in rural areas, they told us that genuinely affordable housing was their biggest concern, with a massive 84% telling us the chronic absence of suitable housing was a major factor in them being likely to leave.

'Fewer than one in five told us that they think their future looks bright.'

And heartbreakingly, optimism for their rural futures was at rock bottom. Fewer than one in five (just 18%) told us that they think their future looks bright, with digital connectivity and poor public transport links all playing into their feelings.

‘There’s just no option for me’

The findings, though startling, come as no surprise to us as CPRE, the countryside charity. We’ve been researching and campaigning on issues such as rural public transport and affordable housing for many years.

All the time, social housing waiting lists continue to grow. Separate CPRE analysis shows that at the current rate of building, the backlog would take 121 years to clear in rural areas.

And our campaign for a bus for every village, every hour was in recognition of the poor existing links that leave too many communities cut off and people isolated. 66% of the young people we surveyed told us that they’re concerned about infrequent and unreliable public transport.

'I don't want to go.'
Freya Davies, 18

And anyone who’s struggled with slow rural wifi can relate to the 76% of young people who told us that these issues of poor digital connectivity had influenced their desire to move.

Freya Davies, 18, from Northamptonshire, a Flore parish councillor and member of the Northamptonshire Youth Crime Commission, told us how frustrating it feels to feel she’s forced to leave:

‘It’s just really hurtful. I put quite a lot into the village and it sort of feels like I’m being pushed out. I don’t want to go. I really like living here but there’s just no option for me.’

‘The shameful inequities of rural life’

Our chief executive, Crispin Truman, points out the sad reality of these findings.

‘A thriving countryside depends on young people being able to study, work and start families in rural areas. But the majority of young people born and raised in the countryside feel they can no longer afford to live there – despite the overwhelming majority saying they would like to.’

At CPRE, we’re continuing to campaign for better connections (digital and transport) in rural areas. This becomes especially important now we’ve heard from these young people just how isolated they feel.

'Public transport and broadband in the countryside has been treated as an afterthought for too long.'
Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive

As Crispin says, ‘the shameful inequities of rural life mean young people growing up today struggle simply to meet up with their friends – in person or online – because public transport and broadband in the countryside has been treated as an afterthought for too long.’

‘It’s definitely about trying to bring us back up, to level us up’

The research also showed how unheard young people feel by decision makers. Freya urged politicians:

‘Don’t forget us! It’s definitely about trying to bring us back up, to level us up with urban areas. Some people prefer living in cities, it’s a different way of life, but I don’t think that living in rural areas in the countryside should come with being disconnected and being left behind. I don’t think that’s fair.’

And as Crispin puts it, ‘we must do better’, outlining what CPRE is calling on from the government:

‘To really level up the countryside the government must, at a bare minimum, guarantee hourly flat fare bus services running from morning to midnight, seven days a week, for our rural towns and villages.

‘And in the forthcoming Spending Review, we’re calling on the government to allocate £12.8 billion of funding a year to tackle the housing crisis, with a fair proportion allocated to rural areas to deliver genuinely affordable and well-designed homes for rural communities.’

Support our young people

Want to help do your bit to make the countryside better for our 16-25 year-olds? Join or donate to CPRE and help us to keep calling on the government to listen to young people and better meet their needs.

We won’t stop campaigning for a healthy, equitable and thriving countryside – one that includes and supports people of all ages.

A teenager stands at the edge of a field with her back to us
A teenager in a field in Great Bookham, Surrey Jamie Street / Unsplash

Explainers

Dive deeper into the topics we care about with our handy explainer guides.