Rural communities face ‘meltdown’

13 Aug 10
Radical action must be taken to save Britain’s villages, rural organisations have said.

By Jaimie Kaffash

16 August 2010

Radical action must be taken to save Britain’s villages, rural organisations have said.

The Rural Coalition warns today that rural services face ‘meltdown’ from spending cuts, housing will be unaffordable to all but the wealthiest and wages will lag 20% behind urban equivalents.

Its report, The rural challenge, sets out the five main issues facing the country communities: housing need; providing good rural services; creating flourishing market towns; and empowering local communities.

The coalition calls on the government to scrap the Conservatives’ Community Right to Build manifesto pledge, which requires 90% support in the community before small-scale developments can go ahead. It warns that this could ‘bring local development to a halt’ and recommends in its place elected parish councils, who would initiate plans themselves.

It also urges the government to allow rural communities to share any savings made so they can develop innovative alternatives, such as community ownership of post offices, pubs and transport.

Chair Matthew Taylor, who led a review of affordable housing and rural economies in 2008, said: ‘On its current course, with no change in policy and no commitment to action, much of the countryside is becoming part dormitory, part theme park and part retirement home.
‘We need a fundamental change of approach at both national and local levels to give rural communities a more sustainable future. The rural coalition believes the government's commitment to localism and the Big Society opens the door to those reforms – but as yet there is a very real risk that in practice cuts will fall heaviest in rural communities which may lose services altogether, and opportunities will be missed to make rural communities prosper.’

The Rural Coalition is made up of a range of organisations including the Local Government Association, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Town & Country Planning Association.

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