Demise of rural populations
22/08/2011 4:39 pm
in some parts of the UK, the decrease in population of families is leading to the decreasing viability and sustainability of local services. For instance, communities are seeing local schools threatened with closure as numbers dwindle (with some villages looking to use children from neighbouring areas to keep their schools viable) Other communities are seeing shops, post offices, pubs, and even churches close as populations become increasingly elderly with young people leaving for better work prospects elsewhere.
The question is, what role can housing play in reversing this trend and so keep our countryside and villages alive?
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22/08/2011 8:32 pm
I'm not sure that housing can make a difference in some areas. Until two years ago I lived in a large village of some 900 inhabitants in rural east anglia. There was a great deal of social housing in the village, but it's remote location and lack of public transport, jobs and services meant that they became largely 'hard to let' and the majority were occupied by the elderly, disabled and long, long, long term unemployed. The bus ran only once per day to the next market town which offered very little indeed in terms of jobs. The local pub survived, as did the local shop, largely because of the disproportionate number of social residents effectively trapped in the village.
Like many people of working age, I left the village as the long commute to working in the nearest big town became increasingly unviable due to the rising cost of fuel.
I personally don't think housing alone can keep the countryside alive, not without a concerted effort to develop employment opportunities and government recognising that rural communities are over depended on oil to both heat homes and stay in work.
22/08/2011 8:49 pm
Hi Anon - when you say the village had a large proportion of social housing - was it still socially rented or had it been bought out to right to buy?
Looking at your experience though it would appear that viable and rewarding local employment is a clear factor to keeping the communities alive.
Do you think if, for instance, some of the enterprising people who have set up as employers across our cities and towns could be encouraged into the rural communities this would help, or do you think those communities are only welcoming of such immigration if it is low paid field labour?
I know from my own experience of village life that sometimes the locals can refuse new arrivals, even if that means the village facilities and services become unviable as a result - is that your own experience before leaving your village?
22/08/2011 8:57 pm
In the village I know, in Somerset, the local school will close unless we can get outsiders to come along and use it. Our local Parish Council supports this, but has previously made such a fuss about outsiders and migrants that I can't see anyone wanting to risk coming, That's sad because it's a nice school. It's a shame when a few short sighted folk put their own prejudice against the communities interests.
22/08/2011 8:57 pm
What we need is clear government support so that housing is available for those needing to move into the village, and for future generations to grow into. This means that they must also have employment, but with the internet and broadband that is achievable without long commuting - it needs politicians though to get employers to stop forcing people to make journeys that they do not need to make. Government could also help by making 'preservation incentives' in the same way as they make othe economic development incentives for large employers. Small employers, crafts and country pursuits could all continue to run with such support, where they may be stressed or non-existant currently.
22/08/2011 9:21 pm
To my knowlege the majority of the housing remained in social ownership, although a number of the large, older style family houses had been bought. The majority were small bungalows which remained in social ownership. Locals were largely welcoming of incomers, I think mainly because of the high propertion of social homes in the village. That said, there were slurs cast on the newest of the developments which was probably about 20 years old. I would say that the village was more welcoming than unwelcoming where people didn't cause trouble and made an effort to integrate into the community.
I'm not sure about whether entrepreneurs could be persuaded to set up in the country. To my knowlege there were a number of very small, cottage industries set up in the vilage, but these rarely employed people outside of the family. We were fortunate though in having a passable broadband connection which did enable people to work from home. I think the problem is that a great many people in this region are employed in service industries, not in actually producing something and unless somone relocates one of the large insurance callcentres out into the countryside ther'd still be more jobseekers than jobs!
I think the other anon poster makes a good point. Parish councils put big decisions in the hands of people who are often middle-class do-gooders, elected to post by their peers with their own agenda of preserving their village in a rural 1950's idyll where only people 'like them' can become part of the set!
23/08/2011 9:27 am
Thanks for that insight Anon - hopefully other contributors can share their own experiences, observations and ideas. I'm convinced that there is a solution that is blindingly obvious to someone, but admit to not being that person.
23/08/2011 9:37 am
I live in the sticks but commute to a city. Luckily where I live there is a main rail line and the small town is a market town surrounded by several satellite villages. Whilst not booming the area is not dying.
It has an active industrial estate and farming community with most traffic jams caused by tractors ferrying produce and equipment around. Schools are well attended. I think the key is a competent council that knows its area. One that is not 'citycentric'. There is life outside a city. It is not all doom and gloom in the sticks.
23/08/2011 10:26 am
I think your different experience Nonny 23/08 9.37 to either Nonny on 22/08 is communications. The ease of transport means that your income outside of the community can benefit and help maintain the community. The other consideration is sclae of local employment, which on face value sounds larger than the other contributers.
What sort of industiral production is there - and is this something other communites could copy?
Apologies if there was any perceived inference of doom - I love the rural area and all the positives it offers and am genuinely interested in encouraging the sharing of ideas and observations that means such communities continue to be able to be enjoyed.
You don't mention the housing situation in your community Nonny. Are there issues, and if not what solutions are at play to achieve the positive position?
23/08/2011 1:02 pm
Industrial production: Furniture manufacture, Produce, Woodburners all on a small scale. Other businesses are Farmshops, farm supply stores, small DIY stores, independant fishmongers and butchers, bakers, tyre sellers, industrial equipment hire, builders, livestock markets, banks and building societies, a variety of takeaways. This in a small rural town with a population of less than 8000.
Housing is adequate with both council and HA homes. I have no idea about the waiting list situation.
It is a happy small community. They do exist.
23/08/2011 2:01 pm
Sounds ideal Nonny - don't tell us where it is or we'll descend in droves!
Thanks for the information.
Does anyone else have an example of what is going on out there that is either keeping the communities alive, or risking their existence?