The future for rural areas


Standing in the High Weald in Kent recently, I’d been hearing about the multitude of problems the local area faces, with the pressures of development, degradation of nature, the finances of farming and the decline in traditional forms of community and participation.

We need a new, holistic view of the future for rural areas, which connects landscape with housing, society with economy, nature with tourism, farming and transport. This was highlighted in Lord Foster of Bath’s report earlier this year, which called for a strategy for rural communities to be able to fulfill their potential. 

At CPRE we want to develop a holistic, positive approach to enhance, promote and protect rural life. Rural communities need: 

  • the right housing, jobs, transport and services, accessible and well-designed;
  • a liveable, sustainable and attractive built environment;
  • local distinctiveness, culture and heritage and a market for local products; and
  • a well-cared for, accessible and attractive natural environment.

The countryside and rural communities have a huge capacity to mitigate climate change. Rural communities need to be given the power and the funding necessary to make the most of these opportunities. People living in the countryside should be supported to enhance the landscapes around them with more sustainable farming practices, and natural features like hedgerows, wetlands and peatland.

Health and wellbeing is increasingly being linked to access to nature. Here too, thriving rural communities are an essential part of dealing with a major national problem. By putting the countryside at the heart of physical and mental health provision we can strengthen rural communities whilst delivering benefits for everyone.

Similarly, better approaches to house building and transport provision in rural areas will reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time as improving wellbeing. Investing in walking and cycling infrastructure in the countryside – not just in cities - would allow healthier active lives for local people, as well as reducing the need to drive, creating safer and more attractive village and town centres and reducing emissions. Better housing design in rural areas can protect precious greenfield land whilst simultaneously minimising energy demands.

At CPRE we support positive solutions for the countryside and rural communities, whether that’s low carbon farming, more public transport or rural affordable housing. Getting the planning system to work for local communities is a vital part of the solution. We also need Government to show leadership on these issues and to take an enabling, empowering approach particularly to those rural communities most in need.  And we need to work together as civil society to demonstrate vision and solutions for a sustainable rural life.

CPRE wants to work with others to campaign for better policies that strengthen rural communities. We want to put the countryside at the heart of our country’s future and ensure that rural communities thrive whilst tackling the challenges of wellbeing and the climate emergency.

CPREs network of local groups will also work in partnership with local communities to empower them to make the changes they want to see. The future of rural communities needs to be determined by local voices and we will support people living in rural areas as they seek to promote, enhance, and protect the countryside around them.

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