Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Rural Coalition publishes 'The Rural Challenge' ........ ..... and "urges the government to address three core areas: the rural economy, affordable housing, and health and social care services."

There are several issues highlighted by a new report out from the Rural Coalition:
Groups unite for rural communities


There are promises to extend broadband services in rural areas:
Project to extend superfast broadband in rural areas of Devon and Somerset | Western Morning News

Nevertheless, the District Council has been particularly critical of the lack of such service provision:

'Two district councils have launched a scathing attack on the plans to roll out superfast broad band in Devon and Somerset, accusing BT of an “aggressively commercial” approach.
'Others, including Teignbridge, are now refusing to contribute funding to the Connecting Devon and Somerset fund, which is currently £3.65 million short of the target, because they claim not to have any guarantee that residents in their area will receive access to faster data speeds.
'The senior councillor tasked with scrutinising the project has called his findings “the most disappointing” committee in which he has been involved in while in local government.
'Tim Wood, chairman of the task and finish forum (TAFF), has been scrutinising the project for East Devon and South Somerset district councils, which have both refused to sign “gagging orders” as insisted on by the communications giant.
'Critics say BT has been handed a virtual monopoly, allowing it to use public money to fund already “highly profitable” operations, leaving hard-to-reach rural areas without any service.

Councils in Devon and Somerset claim BT too 'aggressive' over broadband secrecy | Western Morning News

And yet it’s common for rural businesses to look online to generate trade:

'Greg Page-Turner owns and runs Woodhayes Farm, a series of converted farm buildings that include office rental units, guest houses and an art gallery. He utilises a combination of Twitter, Facebook and a blog to draw attention to the project. This means talking about activities taking place, such as a project to plant 400 trees or new businesses that have moved in, rather than simply promoting the services that are on offer.
'Page-Turner is also a big advocate of local networking and is chairman of the East Devon branch of the FSB: “Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted,” he says. “People in rural areas do tend to talk and update each other about what’s happening locally and people get to hear about it. You have to keep plugging away at it. People will get to know you.”

Rural businesses: how to compete with your city rivals | Guardian Small Business Network | The Guardian

East Devon's MPs have welcomed investment in other infrastructure in the South West:
Hugo Swire: New infrastructure investment will mean more jobs and growth in East Devon | Exeter Express and Echo
A letter from Neil Parish MP: Time to upgrade roads into Devon | Exeter Express and Echo

This followed on from some 'public consultation':
Public exhibitions to discuss A303 - News - Sidmouth Herald - Mobile
Devon County Council stage progress reports on A303 study | Exeter Express and Echo

Sidmouth's Town Councillors have been discussing the 'upgrading' of the A303:

And yet there are concerns about the impact of any such development:
A303 to be dualled through the Blackdown Hills? Surely not! | Sidmouth Independent News
The Distorting Effects of Transportation Subsidies : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

When it comes to employment, Devon is in a pretty good situation - although, as Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for Economy and Growth said, youth unemployment is on the rise:

"Nonetheless the recent small increase in younger claimants in parts of the County highlights the need for continued partnership working on initiatives such as our Mentoring and Youth Deal wage progression pilot, which aim to tackle youth unemployment in our county.
Devon County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership are working together across the county to drive forward enterprise led growth.
The Micro Enterprise Scheme, in particular, is currently creating new and innovative employment opportunities in businesses in rural parts of the County."

More Devon people in work | Torquay Herald Express

There are other projects to help the rural economy: 

'Regen South West, believes that while 16,000 people are employed by south west construction businesses in making our homes more energy efficient this number could be a lot higher with the right Government backing.'

Westcountry could miss out on thousands of future green jobs | Western Morning News

'Nature Improvement Areas', set up by the government in 2012: 

'...have helped farmers to access EU grants, made valuable contributions towards university research and boosted the £210 billion rural economy.'

Nature Improvement Areas are boosting England’s wildlife, communities and rural economy - Devon project leading by example (From This is The West Country)
Investment in improving the natural environment of Devon is working | Western Morning News


Living in the South West is an attractive proposition - but it drives up the price of housing:
Home buyers in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset are paying around £56,000 extra for homes in the countryside | Western Morning News
'Priced out of Rural England' - young Devon families unable to buy a home in their town or village | North Devon Journal

And renting is not much better:
Private rents in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset nearly half mean average earnings | Western Morning News

Targets for affordable housing in the West Country have been rendered 'meaningless', according to the CPRE:
Families facing crisis in finding affordable homes as targets widely missed | Western Morning News

And now the government will allow developers to build in rural areas - without providing affordable housing. As the Rural Coalition has made clear:

"Despite warnings from housing associations and other rural organisations, the minister has gone ahead with a policy change that could reduce the number of rural affordable housing on small sites to nil over the coming years.
"This decision takes power away from local communities who should have the right to say what type of housing they want in their area.
"This is a real slap in the face for hard-working families on low incomes. They will now find it almost impossible to afford a house in their community and may be forced to move if rents continue to rise."

Scrapping affordable housing requirements a 'huge blow' to rural villages | Western Daily Press
“Scrapping affordable housing” in small developments a huge blow | East Devon Alliance
Futures Forum: Rural housing decision is a "huge blow"


Demand for services seems to be on the increase - with churches highlighting some of the issues:
Why Britain has 800 foodbanks today, when there were none 25 years ago | Plymouth Herald
Bishop of Truro calls for end to hunger ‘scandal’ | Western Morning News

There have been concerns about the future of postal services in rural areas:
Royal Mail's Universal Service vital for Cornwall | Western Morning News
Universal service 'uneconomic' (From Mid Devon Star)
Futures Forum: The future of rural post offices: Sidbury Post Office to close 'temporarily'

Other services under threat are: 
... libraries:
More self-service facilities could be the future for Devon libraries | Tiverton Mid Devon Gazette
OTTERY: Library campaigners push for ‘pathfinder’ scheme - View from Sidmouth

... transport:

... health:
Vulnerable people in rural areas at risk from big changes in care | Western Morning News

This is the response from the Rural Coalition: 

ACRE | Action with communities in rural England

Rural Coalition

ACRE provides the secretariat for the Rural Coalition. The coalition, chaired by Lord Robin Teverson, comprises 14 members who subscribe to a vision for a living and working countryside.Lord Robin Teverson

The policies required to achieve that vision are set out in The Rural Challenge 2015 to be published by the Rural Coalition in December 2014.

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.

Rural Coalition - ACRE | Action with Communities in Rural England

Saturday, 06 December 2014 15:21

Groups unite for rural communities

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Groups unite for rural communities
RURAL organisations have come together to warn that the priorities of rural communities risk being sidelined.
With six months to go before the 2015 general election, the Rural Coalition of 13 organisations - including the Rural Services Network - is calling on politicians to recognise the national importance of the countryside.
The Rural Coalition has published a Rural Challenge 2015 document outlining a new set of rural priorities for the next government.
The document urges the government to address three core areas: the rural economy, affordable housing, and health and social care services.
Rural Coalition chairman Lord Teverson said: "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 £369bn, says the coalition.
Lord Teverson said: "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 that 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, the Rural Coalition says economies remain vulnerable and are often overlooked in national and regional policies.
It 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.
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.
Funding systems should be improved to ensure better access for those in isolated communities, it says.
Members of the Rural Coalition include: 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.
The full Rural Challenge 2015 document can be downloaded here.

Groups unite for rural communities

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