Young forced to abandon villages

YOUNG people are being forced to abandon rural areas of Suffolk to find jobs, homes and support, a new report will warn today.

Jo Thewlis

YOUNG people are being forced to abandon rural areas of Suffolk to find jobs, homes and support, a new report will warn today.

The drain of young people away from their childhood homes could blight the long-term future of the county's villages as lack of affordable housing, poor public transport, few work opportunities and slow broadband access force them to move elsewhere, the report will claim.

Dr Stuart Burgess, the Government's rural advocate, said: “Wherever I go, I hear deep concerns that challenges with housing, work, transport, training and social exclusion are preventing young people from living in the countryside.


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“Without young people to provide a work force, rural economies are unable to fulfil their full potential and rural economies can go into a decline.”

Lack of opportunities in rural areas can lead to a cycle of low aspirations, Dr Burgess claims in his report, State of the Countryside, which goes before the Government today.

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Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk ACRE, a charity which tackles the economic, social and environmental needs of communities in the county, said a lack of affordable housing in smaller villages could lead to a form of 'social cleansing', as villagers are priced out of the housing market by wealthy newcomers.

“We have a real issue with affordable housing - demand just isn't being met,” he said.

“There are young people who already live in a village and desperately need housing but can't afford to stay.”

Poor public transport limits job opportunities, training and social choices for young people, who are often forced to rely on private travel than those who live in urban areas, the report adds.

Patchy mobile phone coverage and lack of broadband access can also lead to social exclusion as youngsters cannot use the internet to complete homework or keep in touch with friends via social networking sites.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said a 'Speed Up Suffolk' campaign to boost broadband coverage was being launched in the county, which only has 50% of its rural population with access to high-speed internet services.

“Young people can be socially excluded in rural areas,” she said. “Broadband is becoming the watch word for social inclusion.

“Businesses are not looking to invest in areas that have poor broadband speeds so young people are also losing out on good jobs.”

Poor public transport often forces youngsters to rely on lifts from parents and private travel, the report goes on to say.

Guy McGregor, the county council's portfolio-holder for roads, transport and planning, said: “Rural transport is an issue for us.

“Young people want to spread their wings and to be entirely dependent upon parents can be gruelling but, unfortunately, services are difficult to provide.”

Mr McGregor added the county council subsidised many routes in remote areas and had launched the Explore card, which gives young adults up to 20 years old half-price discounts on nearly all bus services and adult off-peak train fares.

To view the report, visit www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk

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