The RTPI has joined eleven national organisations to call on the Government to act on pressing rural issues such as the lack of affordable housing and much reduced local services due to austerity.
The Institute is one of the signatories of a statement issued by the Rural Coalition today, which highlights the importance for Brexit policy decisions such as those on EU trade, regulations, funding and migrant labour to be rural proofed to ensure that they meet rural needs. Key grant funds for rural businesses and projects – the LEADER and EAFRD programmes – will cease after exiting the EU, with potentially severe consequences for the rural economy.
The statement identifies the key principles and actions which the new Government must apply to deliver a fairer deal for the over nine million people in danger of being ‘left behind’ in rural areas.
These include a planning system and funding regime that delivers “a meaningful increase in the number of affordable homes outside of towns and cities, a fair distribution of funding between urban and rural areas for services such as healthcare and transport, and an industrial strategy that realises the potential of rural areas”.
Richard Blyth, RTPI Head of Policy, said:
“The role of planning is equally vital in small towns and villages as it is in urban areas. It is therefore essential that the planning of our urban areas and rural areas is undertaken in a joined up way with the distinct needs and contributions of both evaluated in a holistic way.”
The Institute is of the view that England’s greenfield sites, including green belts, need to be considered alongside brownfield land as locations for new housing (see policy statement here).
The Rural Coalition calls on the Government to take four positive actions:
- Introduce an ambitious annual target for the number of new affordable homes built in rural areas and a dedicated rural affordable housing funding programme.
- Deliver a support programme for rural businesses and community entrepreneurs.
- Ensure that the extra costs of delivering services in rural areas are properly reflected in any funding formula, such as those used for local government, education and the NHS.
- Provide a comprehensive community infrastructure support programme, which recognises the pressures on volunteers, helps those places with less capacity and spreads existing good rural practice.
Margaret Clark CBE, Chair of the Rural Coalition, said: ‘The Government must recognise that rural England is not just about farming and the environment, and address the very real challenges facing those who live and work in our smaller towns and villages. For too long, rural people and businesses have been left behind and sidelined in the national political debate. From now on, all policies and their implementation must be properly assessed to ensure they meet the needs of the millions of people who call the countryside home.’
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, President of the Rural Coalition, said: “No population in this country should feel left behind, and it is time for policymakers to work together to create a living, working countryside and give rural communities a sustainable future.”
Members of the Rural Coalition are: Action with Communities in Rural England; National Housing Federation; Campaign to Protect Rural England; Plunkett Foundation; Country Land and Business Association; Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; Germinate: the Arthur Rank Centre; Royal Town Planning Institute; National Association of Local Councils; Rural Services Network; and National Farmers Union