RURAL communities are too often overlooked by the Government when it comes to formulating policy, the focus usually being on cities in the belief that the countryside will somehow look after itself.
This is misguided. If the countryside is to prosper and have a sustainable economic future, it needs the active support of Government policies and a realistic level of resources.
The problems faced by rural communities are further underlined by today’s report by the Prince’s Countryside Fund. The picture it paints of towns and villages doing everything possible to help themselves, yet still feeling increasingly isolated, will be familiar to anybody who lives there.
And once more, the key challenges faced by the countryside are set out – a lack of infrastructure, shops and services, scarce public transport and poor broadband.
Add to that house prices too high for many people to afford and the migration of young people to cities in search of work, and the outlook for many smaller places is uncertain.
These have all become serious problems, cited time and again by rural residents as threats to the fabric of communities and obstacles to doing business. It is incumbent upon the Government to start addressing them.
Thriving and vibrant rural communities are of benefit to the entire country, and not just those who live in the countryside. With the right support, they can make an even greater contribution to the economy than they do now. It is high time the Government gave much more thought to them.