Rural Places are distinctive
We believe the survey makes the case to re-assert the idea of rural as a distinctive category and a distinctive theme in policy planning. This has not been the case now for a number of years. It is not our view, however, that this should be done in a way which ignores rural and urban connections or seeks to develop a “special pleading” pitch for rural issues. Rather we believe it is important to re-focus thinking on a distinctive rural agenda within overall public policy planning to redress the balance which has been lost over the last decade through an approach which gave rural issues too little prominence.
Rural Places are already quite self sufficient but the Big Society will not just happen
Plans for the implementation of the Big Society in rural England need careful and intricate planning if they are to result in people taking more responsibility for the delivery of local services in their communities. They need to recognise that while rural communities value volunteering, they do not exhibit significant enthusiasm for the delivery of more services locally by community groups.
They need to recognise that some rural communities are well endowed with individuals who will be “up for” getting stuck into the Big Society concept while others will lack these individuals. They need to listen not just to the voice of those at the forefront of plans to take more local ownership, but also to the voice of those who are less confident and often less noticed in rural communities.
Finally, they must acknowledge that rural places sometimes have divided and challenging social dynamics. Although many rural places have significant community spirit, derived from people working together to overcome their lack of access to services, this is by no means universally the case.
Rural Places are becoming less sustainable
There is considerable concern about the sustainability of rural settlements in many parts of rural England. This is underpinned by a consistent and widely held set of views about what makes them vulnerable. There is a clear preference for very local action, through very local institutions at the community level to address these issues.