Rural Policy and Proofing
Brian Wilson Associates has unparalleled experience of rural policy and rural proofing. Brian spent years at the centre of rural policy, not least 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 ageing. There is a shortage of affordable housing. And whilst rural economies continue to diversify, wages tend to be low and many businesses are frustrated by poor (broadband and mobile) connectivity. Closure of local service outlets and inadequate transport can leave more vulnerable residents isolated. Yet rural communities are often resourceful and take actions for themselves.
Government policy depends heavily upon expectations that national and local policy making will be ‘rural proofed’, so it addresses rural needs and is workable in a rural context. All the evidence, however, is that the application of rural proofing has been very patchy.
This has led to calls for Government to produce a Rural Strategy, to put ‘rurality’ higher up the policy agenda. This could lay out long term objective, as well as setting initiatives and resources to deliver them.
At least since the Localism Act 2011, there has also been a growing expectation communities will act to address their own concerns. This has included policy measures such as neighbourhood planning and community rights, the first of which has been pursued in many rural areas.
Brian Wilson Associates has undertaken a variety of projects to support individual parish and town councils plus community-based organisations, as well as good practice and guidance work for the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).