Headlines: March 4th, 2010

Government ministers will be told today that the long-term future of rural areas is in jeopardy because so many young people are being forced out of the countryside to find home and jobs. A report being delivered directly to the Prime Minister makes recommendations on housing, transport, training and social exclusion.

The fears for the future are being raised by Stuart Burgess, the Government’s Rural Advocate, and are based on evidence gathered from communities across rural England. Dr Burgess said: “Without young people to provide a work force, rural economies are unable to fulfil their full potential and rural communities can go into a decline.”

The report calls on policymakers to demonstrate a better understanding of the challenges facing rural young people. It recommends flexible planning to create more affordable rural housing and says local authorities should review their housing land assessments to take better account of rural needs. It also wants to see a renewed focus on providing integrated public transport, new ways to meet training and employment needs in isolated areas and more effort from schools and universities to raise young people’s aspirations.

Dr Burgess added: “On top of this, lack of broadband and mobile phone coverage in many rural areas is hitting young people and businesses alike, be it through recruitment and employment, better access to learning and support services or enjoying the connectivity that has become an everyday feature of urban youth culture, such as joining a social network or getting internet help with homework.”

Alongside Dr Burgess’s report to Gordon Brown the Commission for Rural Communities is publishing a ‘State of the countryside’ update, setting out statistics on life for children and young people, including the current rate of outward migration.