Better rural proofing essential to narrow rural and urban divide

26 March 2021

Today’s new government report on rural proofing demonstrates the need for government departments to better involve rural communities in policy-making processes to ensure policies are beneficial to those living in rural areas as well as urban ones, the NFU said today.

Responding to the publication of the report, which looks at how different government departments have rural proofed policies, NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said: “From reading this report, and to support the delivery of the government’s big ambition to level up Britain, it’s clear that rural proofing must be taken more seriously across all government departments, not just those with a specific rural brief.

“This initial report has identified many areas where policies simply do not work from a rural perspective. For example, while there are positive plans to move services like GP and primary care online, many people living in the countryside simply don’t have sufficient connectivity and broadband to access them.

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“As well as this, only 10% of the 180,000 new homes being built across the country are due to be in rural settlements, even though there is already significant lack of rural housing and this market is expected to grow due to more people homeworking and moving to the countryside.

“The government has to realise that it’s not just Defra policies that impact rural areas. Any policy decisions that have an impact on people’s homes, livelihoods and services are clearly as important to rural communities as those living in urban areas. It is therefore essential that all government departments do far more to engage with people who live and work in the countryside, and at an early stage of the policy-making process, to ensure they can have genuine influence on the decisions that impact them.

“As the NFU has highlighted in its recent ‘Levelling up rural Britain’ report, rural proofing will be a crucial element for the government if the country is to maximise its goal of national prosperity, a greener economy and increased productivity.  

“Yet, it is clear from this report that there is a large gap between urban and rural areas that needs bridging. This is a really important, ongoing piece of work and, if done successfully, will be a big step towards levelling up rural and urban Britain.

“I know this report is only the start of the government’s rural proofing project and the NFU will be working closely with ministers and looks forward to reaching a point where all primary legislation delivers as much for rural communities as it does for urban ones.”

Read the Rural proofing in England report here.

Rural proofing is defined by the report as “examining government policies closely from a rural perspective throughout their development and adjusting them as needed to ensure that their intended outcomes can be realised in rural areas”.

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