A rural lobbying coalition, which includes the Plunkett Foundation, has presented its 2017 statement outlining policies to create a “living and working countryside in England”.
Plunkett, which promotes community ownership, is one of 12 national organisations on the Rural Coalition, which also includes the National Farmers Union and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
In its 2017 statement, the coalition calls on the government to:
- 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.
It also wants rural interests to be carefully considered in the Brexit settlement, with a fair provision of funding and decision making devolved to local communities.
Plunkett, which has supported initiatives such as community pubs and shops, is advocating co-operative and social enterprise models through the coalition.
Co-op ventures such as the village-owned George and Dragon pub, in the Yorkshire Dales, have been highlighted by the Rural Coalition as it promoted the 2017 statement.
James Alcock, general manager at Plunkett, said: “Throughout the UK, rural communities have been taking action themselves to set up and run essential services and assets of community value.
“They do this because they know no one else is going to do it for them, and without it, their communities would be much poorer in comparison. From the village shop, pub and post office, through to woodlands, farms and fishing ports, Plunkett Foundation has supported over 500 such community-owned businesses to establish and thrive, but we are seeing their journey to open taking longer, and the barriers put in front of them making it harder for them to survive.
“We are calling on the government to recognise their vital contribution to the economy, the environment and the health and well-being of rural livelihoods and to support a comprehensive community infrastructure support programme and a support programme to directly help rural businesses and community entrepreneurs. Such initiatives would inspire more rural communities to take action and provide essential services in areas of market failure.”
The Rural Coalition also includes: Action with Communities in Rural England, Arthur Rank Centre, Country Land & Business Association, National Association of Local Councils, National Housing Federation, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Royal Town Planning Institute, Rural Services Network and the Town and Country Planning Association.