MP: Remember rural communities

FORGOTTEN rural communities must be treated more fairly, an MP has warned.

Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said greater fairness was needed in the shaping of government energy and environmental policy.

The coalition government had made great strides in supporting rural communities but more help was needed with the high cost of living in the countryside, he said.

Mr Parish made the comments during a roundtable meeting with rural stakeholers.

They included representatives from the Rural Services Network, Calor Gas, the Countryside Alliance, Action with Communities in Rural England and the Federation of Master Builders.

The discussion focussed on a range of topics of major significance to rural communities – largely around much-needed social housing and the impact of high fuel prices.

Rural stakeholders are particularly concerned that energy and environment policies are suitably "rural proofed" when the government rolls out its Green Deal this autumn.

Government policy delivery is currently two centre-based, Mr Parish was told, with too much emphasis on urban areas resulting in the neglect of rural development and communities.

Delivery should therefore be refocused so the needs of isolated rural residents are treated with the same equality as those who live in more densely populated urban areas.

Rural battles against fuel poverty and on affordable housing had been repeatedly ignored by policymakers as they focus on reaching carbon emission targets, Mr Parish was told.

Both homeowners and homebuilders were being forced to comply with expensive policies that have priced local communities out of their own homes.

For instance, in 1988 low-volume house builders delivered two-thirds of UK housing, but in 2010 they delivered just one-third.

Between 1988 and 2010 the number of small firms delivering fewer than 100 units per year fell by well over 8000 – a fall of 69%.

The consortium of rural stakeholders will now work with Mr Parish to ensure this balance is redressed and fairness is achieved for rural communities.


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