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).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

CRM Data Analyst – Part time – Permanent – Surrey – Circa £28,000 pro rata

£15000 - £16800 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Mechanical Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A key client in the East Midlands are re...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobWe are looking ...

Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The Job...Due to continued ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice