Sustainable villages – Making rural communities fit for the future

As covered in a recent post by my colleague Isobel Ballsdon, The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) recently-published report “Sustainable Villages – Making Rural Communities Fit for the Future” concluded the risks for English villages to be “frozen in time” by outdated sustainability assessments coupled with a static approach to rural planning.

This sustainability is assessed by the range of services available in the close proximity of the area. However, if an area is unsustainable, what incentive is there to improve the services within it, or provide new homes for local young people to move elsewhere in the area?

As a millennial living in a village in Essex, I have often considered returning to an urban area for the benefits it brings in terms of services, connectivity and opportunities. Considering issues such as these, the report references a case study covered by a working document published earlier in the year by the European Network for Rural Development. This paper concluded that “Digital Villages” focussing on digitalization could open up new areas of opportunity for villages.

One key outcome from digital villages was the opportunity for locals to digitally access news about their area in one place, and pass on ideas to the responsible administration via an app. It also improved the economic development of the area by connecting communities. Meanwhile, in the UK only 20% of local authorities thought broadband was important enough to be factored into their sustainability calculations. The result is that in villages: 1) less affordable housing is available, and 2) living in rural areas becomes an uphill struggle as impracticalities fail to be properly realised and addressed.

If the planning system is going to address this, and generally ensure that rural communities share the same access to services the rest of the country can, recognising the struggles rural communities face is vital. In this sense, the CLA report takes a promising first step and will hopefully be investigated further.

This article was written by Phoebe Gray, Account Executive