Brian Wilson Associates has unparalleled experience of rural policy and rural proofing. Brian himself spent years at the centre of rural policy, as a Director at the Commission for Rural Communities and its predecessor, the Countryside Agency. He led the introduction of rural proofing and has remained close to the subject, including a project for Defra to produce local level rural proofing material.
England’s rural areas are subject to major demographic, economic and social changes. The rural population is both growing and ageing. Demand for housing outstrips supply, making prices unaffordable for many. And whilst rural economies continue to diversify, many areas experience low local wages and struggle with poor broadband connectivity. Closure of local service outlets and inadequate transport can leave the more vulnerable isolated. Yet rural communities are generally resourceful and will often take actions for themselves.
In the Government’s ‘Rural Statement’ Defra placed a particular focus on rural economic growth and on delivering universal broadband. Its economic policies include funding for six pilot Rural Growth Networks, which are testing business support, planning and infrastructure measures.
The Government’s Localism Act 2011 introduced various measures of interest to rural communities and their local (parish and town) councils, including a set of Community Rights and statutory Neighbourhood Planning.
Brian Wilson Associates has undertaken a range of related work to support parish and town councils, producing good practice and guidance material for the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).