Action urged to ease deprivation in rural areas

Poverty and deprivation are rife in Britain's rural communities, where life can be as hard as that in any depressed inner city. But the serious social difficulties of people living in the countryside are largely ignored, according to a report published today.

The report, the result of an inquiry led by the Duke of Westminster, says rural problems do not gain the attention given to the inner cities: 'People in the countryside may not be rioting, but they do more serious things like killing themselves. They are doing it quietly and it does not make the headlines.'

The Duke calls on the Government to recognise rural deprivation and set up an action programme for the countryside similar to that intended to rejuvenate the inner cities. 'Traditional patterns of rural life are changing fast, causing worry, shame and distress. Those most affected are often angry and bitter, but feel they have little chance of being heard,' the report says.

It begins with an open letter to John Major in which the Duke says the social fabric of Britain's country areas is being destroyed as the nation's rural economy comes under increasing pressure. The result is unemployment, deprivation and distress, he says.

A symptom of this is a suicide rate among farmers that is about twice the national average. Suicide is now the second most common form of death for male farmers aged 15 to 44 years, the report says.

It claims to be the first to canvass the views of business on how best to rectify the gloomy picture it paints of country life. It says businesses should work more closely with public sector organisations in the countryside. In cities this sort of partnership has proved the best way to improve local economies. Some companies consulted showed no interest in rural problems, but most agreed to look at the difficulties, the report says.

But it stresses that only government can provide the leadership and constructive framework needed to put things right. The letter to Mr Major says: 'The social and economic origins of the difficulties which rural areas now face are complex. While the same is true of the problems of the inner cities or of the environment, that has not deterred those who have been determined to find solutions. The same determination is needed here.'

The report warns that tourists and people who enjoy sports in the countryside must realise that their 'playground' is not a museum, but provides a living for others.

It calls for a wider debate on the interdependence between environmental conservation and a viable rural economy. Government policy is too often influenced by environmentalists and should take more heed of industrialists, the report says.

It calls on companies to consider relocating to the countryside, where businesses have found their employees 'reliable and versatile'. Rural businesses should try harder to contribute to local life and planners should adopt 'a more positive attitude' to housing and industrial development in the countryside.

Equally, migrants to rural areas and commuters should not rush to oppose developments that might bring jobs and houses for local people. Professional families should also send their children to village schools, to support their local community.

The report emphasises the key role of transport in the life of the countryside. It says the Government's policy since 1985 of encouraging private operators has left many local bus services in a confused state. It calls for a review of public transport, 'a lifeline for many', to improve services for people who cannot afford their own vehicles.

The Problems in Rural Areas; Duke of Westminster's inquiry report, Little Orchard, Bwlch, Brecon, Powys LD3 7JJ (0874 730728).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Delegate Telesales Executive - OTE £21,000 uncapped

£16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: High quality, dedicated Delegat...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - School Playground Designer

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Traffic Planner

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As the successful candidate you...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor