The state of the countryside 2004 - the challenge of rural movers
Monday 21 June 2004
"Life in England's countryside is good - for many. More and more people are moving there to live - and why shouldn't they have that choice? There's nothing wrong with wanting a good quality of life - but this pressure on the countryside has an unintended impact. Those who exercise their choice to move can reduce the choices of the less well-off in rural areas and affect the character of our countryside," said Countryside Agency chair Pam Warhurst, at the launch of the Agency's latest 'state of the countryside' report (Monday June 21).
"That's why it is important to focus on what's been going on, to help national and regional policy makers better understand the impact of their decisions and initiatives on rural communities and our landscapes - and do something about it.
"We need more facts and analysis in place of rhetoric and anecdote. Our new countryside quality indicator¹, will provide the most scientific measure yet of the way our landscape is changing - whether because of the increasing rural population or due to other reasons. It will provide a tool to help focus future public policy and practice on ways of delivering a thriving and sustainably managed countryside. This report shows that during our base period of study in the 1990s, 23% of England's rural landscapes have been affected by marked change. While some changes, like unsightly developments, may have been harmful to the character of the countryside, others, such as the planting of new woodland for our 12 community forests², have enhanced their local landscapes. Having established the methodology, we will report on more recent trends in our next state of the countryside report."
The state of the countryside 2004 report shows that, as pressures grow on existing rural dwellers, the most damaging effect is the increase in house prices, making fewer and fewer homes affordable for local families and increasing homelessness in remoter areas. There is also evidence of a good deal more rural road use, partly due to the trips new rural dwellers make to urban areas for work and shopping.
The effect is not all negative. The report shows that incomers generate employment for local people as well as for themselves and that the number of rural businesses is growing faster than in urban areas in much of the countryside.
Other issues highlighted in The state of the countryside 2004 report include:
The state of the countryside 2004 report presents data and analysis across 20 key indicator themes which, collectively, provide a comprehensive framework to measure change in rural, social, economic and environmental conditions in ways that cover the issues of most relevance to rural people and communities and to everyone who uses or values the English countryside. A full version of the report (CA170) and much of the underlying data can be downloaded from the Countryside Agency website at
www.countryside.gov.uk/stateofthecountryside or obtained, price £10, from
PO Box 125,
Tel: 0870 120 6466.
Underpinning the Countryside Quality Indicator is a new National Character Area Database (NCAD), consisting of 156 Character Areas of England. For more information on this and the Countryside Quality Counts (CQC) project log on to www.countryside-quality-counts.org.uk
² There are 12 community forests throughout England, established to regenerate the countryside around towns, following an initiative of the Countryside Commission (the Countryside Agency's predecessor) and the Forestry Commission.
³ Assuming 100% mortgage and an average lending rate
The Countryside Agency is the statutory body working to make the quality of life better for people in the countryside and the quality of the countryside better for everyone. It is a non-departmental body sponsored by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs.
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