The rural economy is worth at least £250bn a year in England alone. Yet it could contribute so much more if the Government took the concerns of countryside areas seriously.
As the Covid pandemic has shown, there’s a desire for better-off families to move out of cities as they place an added premium on their quality of life at a time when remote working is becoming the new norm, post-pandemic, for a great many people.
Yet this is little consolation to younger generations who simply cannot afford to gain a foothold on the property ladder – or find their careers, and lives, restricted, by infrequent or non-existent public transport.
To them, they have little or no choice other than to move away from the area where they grew up and are proud to call home – a trend that, in turn, creates an even greater demographic imbalance.
However, rather than ignoring these issues, the Government should be coming up with a ‘rural powerhouse’ strategy that paves the way for market towns, and local parishes, to both survive and thrive.
Not only should this be a key component of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ strategy which, like so many national policies, pays ‘lip service’ to the countryside, but it would help Defra begin to fulfil its three-pronged remit as the Department for the Environment, Food and – in case George Eustice has forgotten – Rural Affairs.
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