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Rural England offers prospects for national change says new State of the countryside report

The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) is today (Tuesday, 6 July 2010) publishing the State of the countryside report giving an up to date definitive picture of rural England. The report provides detailed evidence of the circumstances of people living and working in rural areas drawn from extensive analysis using the latest official statistics.

The report provides a comprehensive picture and benchmark at a time of economic and political change. Amongst other things, it highlights the significant contribution that rural England can make in three critical areas:

  • Economic recovery High levels of entrepreneurship and the apparent resilience to the recession shown by rural based businesses emphasise the potential for rural economies to make a substantial contribution to a national return to growth. This is particularly important given the scope for rural areas to provide new green jobs for both rural and urban residents.
  • Building strong communities Rural people have a strong sense of community. They are more likely to give unpaid help, to participate in local decision-making and to feel that people in their area share values and pull together, than people living in urban areas. This evidence indicates that rural people are in a strong position to respond positively to the new agenda around community-based activity and local empowerment.
  • Providing the natural resources needed by the whole country Rural land is still required for its traditional use of food production in an era of increasing concern about availability of food supplies and increasing interest in the local sourcing of food. There is also a desire to improve environmental quality and opportunities for public enjoyment of the countryside and an imperative to mitigate climate change through developing renewable energy and bio-fuels.

Dr. Stuart Burgess, Chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities said: This years report offers some intriguing insights into how people living and working in rural areas have fared in the economic downturn. While the recession has hit rural areas hard, with some rural areas experiencing greater increases in unemployment than urban ones, rural businesses have higher rates of survival. Rural businesses contribute substantially to the nations prosperity, adding 144,639 million in Gross Value Added in 2007.

The report shows that rural England has some huge strengths and none more relevant at this time than the enduring sense of community which enables many communities to compensate for the lack of local services which their urban counterparts have taken for granted, for example high speed broadband. Indeed, rural communities could provide models of how others can be empowered to do the same at a time of public sector retrenchment and austerity. Finally, the countryside offers huge opportunities to contribute more to climate change mitigation in terms of providing space for renewable energy.

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