Thursday, 09 September 2010 10:46

Rural commission outlines priorities

Written by  Ruralcity Media
More government cutbacks are on the way More government cutbacks are on the way

THE Commission for Rural Communities has outlined three priorities as the organisation is wound down.

Work on the rural economy, affordable housing and young people will top the organisation’s agenda over the coming months.

The commission, which acts as an independent rural watchdog, is due to be abolished under government cost-cutting measures.

It will be replaced by a new rural communities policy unit within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Commission chairman Stuart Burgess said the loss of an independent rural watchdog was regrettable.

But part of its work would continue, he told the Local Government Association rural conference on Wednesday (8 September).

The commission had agreed with Defra junior minister Richard Benyon a focus for its work over the next few months, he added.

“Let me stress that the CRC is not yet gone,” said Dr Burgess. “During the autumn we will be pursuing this agenda with energy.”

It would include work aimed at helping young rural people who were unable to continue living in the countryside.

“It is a concern to me, when I hear that living in the countryside is not a viable option for young people.

“Many of them have to leave their rural communities to find employment, or housing and see no future in returning.”

The future viability of rural communities was at risk if young people were unable to live and work in the countryside, Dr Burgess said.

The commission’s work on the rural economy would also continue, he added.

“We are continuing to advise government on how they can help support the still untapped potential within many local rural economies.”

The commission would work to ensure the implementation of its Agenda for Change, aimed at releasing the economic potential of rural areas.

“We are suggesting that we should do more to help local democracy work well on economic matters,” said Dr Burgess.

Thirdly, the commission would continue its work on affordable rural housing.

“The lack of affordable housing, to buy or to rent, is a major factor forcing young people out of rural areas – or discouraging them to return.

Over the next 25 years, demand for new housing as a result of projected household change would grow by 35% in rural districts.

This growth was projected to be greater than in urban areas, where demand will grow by 27%, said Dr Burgess.

“We have welcomed some of the positive policy proposals coming forward from the coalition government on this subject.”

The commitment to local authorities and their communities having a greater say and ownership of local housing needs was particularly welcome.

Work would continue in a number of other areas, Dr Burgess said.

They included work on fuel poverty, financial inclusion and ways the government could help rural communities achieve more.

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