Rural communities “left behind” and lack access to essential services, according to new report
Many rural communities in the UK have been “left behind” and require a different approach to transport and mobility investment than those in urban areas, a new report says today.
National law firm, Foot Anstey LLP, which has offices located in Bristol, Exeter, London, Plymouth, Southampton, Taunton and Truro, has collaborated with global consulting firm WSP on ‘The 30-minute rural community’ which explores mobility within the UK's rural areas.
The report examines the challenges around rural mobility and the opportunities to create more productive, greener, healthier, quieter and safer communities.
Foot Anstey and WSP found that many rural communities have experienced a reduction in essential services in recent decades, including transport provision, leaving them dependent on cars. This dependency can often limit social and economic development, because those in rural areas who do not drive are often left unable to easily access healthcare, education, employment, leisure activities or social interaction opportunities.
The report comes at a time when rural living has become increasingly desirable due to the fresh opportunities for remote working due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Though around 12 million people in the UK live in rural areas, the report highlights the lack of focus on mobility for these communities to date and sets out where the opportunities lie for investment.
To achieve the ‘30-minute rural community’ concept approach, the report recommends three key areas of focus:
- Improving the baseline level of social and community infrastructure in rural communities to provide everyday services (i.e. pharmacies, local good deliveries, etc.) and promote using clusters of settlements working together as an eco-system;
- Using existing local leadership or social groups to deliver meaningful change, such as Parish Councils, Community Energy organisations or community land trusts;
- Where services can't be provided locally, improving physical and digital access and energy provision to make it easier, quicker and more sustainable to access those services in local market towns and cities.
The report's authors, Chris Pritchett, Partner and Head of Energy and Mobility at Foot Anstey, and Giles Perkins, Head of Future Mobility at WSP, believe that through this three-pronged approach of dispersed healthcare, retail, education and leisure facilities could be connected as a network of facilities, rather than individual outlets.
Moreover, they believe one answer may lie in undertaking joined-up planning to find solutions to improve access to amenities we all depend upon.
Chris Pritchett, Partner and Head of Energy and Mobility at Foot Anstey, commented: "The conversation has changed from assuming people want to be hypermobile all the time. Now, it's about accessibility; to goods, services and opportunities, underpinned by a sense of community. This report helps us identify key factors that need to be improved and addressed."
Giles Perkins, Head of Future Mobility at WSP, said: "Rural communities across the UK face distinctly different challenges to those in urban areas and for too long has this been forgotten. This report helps us think differently about the uniqueness of these places and be creative in how we improve mobility and transport."
To find out more about Foot Anstey's work on Future Mobility, please visit: https://www.footanstey.com/service/mobility/. To download the brochure and find out more about WSP please visit: https://www.wsp.com/en-GB/campaigns/future-mobility.