Rural Challenge for Government 2015

Calling for recognition of the national importance of the countryside and our rural communities, the Rural Coalition is urging Government to address three core areas to support them: the rural economy, affordable housing, and health and social care services.

The Rural Challenge 2015 outlines a new set of rural priorities for the next Government:

Growing and sustaining the rural economy

  • ‘Rural-proof’ Local Enterprise Partnerships and devolution within England to realise the potential of all rural areas, including the vital role of market towns.
  • Speed up the rollout of rural broadband infrastructure and 4G mobile technology to ensure a universal service obligation of at least 10 megabits per second by the end of 2015, and relate payments to infrastructure providers to their rural performance.
  • Strengthen cross-boundary strategic planning, and give further continued support for and simplify the delivery of neighbourhood plans in rural and coastal communities, linking these with wider community-wide investment and delivery development plans.
  • Encourage the development of local food supply chains, through a new national Food Strategy and action plan, stronger national planning guidance to protect high street and town centre food retail, and local investment in manufacturing, marketing and distribution.
  • Support micro and small enterprises by developing the Rural Growth Networks to stimulate the rural economy, including community-owned enterprises to safeguard services and deliver renewable energy schemes.

Providing affordable housing for local people

  • Introduce new national targets, properly monitored, for affordable housing delivery in settlements of under 3000 people.
  • Develop models for small-scale older people’s housing in rural areas, including local plan policies, financing, tenure mix, and provision of care services and community support.
  • More flexible public investment in affordable housing, allowing higher grant rates for smaller affordable housing where viability is shown to be the cause of under-supply.
  • Strengthen the role of neighbourhood plans within the planning system where advanced community-led proposals conflict with developer-led proposals that fail to meet local needs.
  • Require ‘change of use’ permission for new second homes in rural and coastal areas where there is a shortage of local housing and a high density of second homes.
  • Retain the ability to require a proportion of affordable homes on small developments (under 10 homes) to meet local needs in rural communities.

Working for healthy rural communities 

  • Recognise the vital role played by local social care and community support in preventative action on health in rural areas.
  • Scale-up and roll out existing models of successful community action, such as good neighbour schemes and ‘village agents’.
  • Strengthen the role of rural community facilities as outreach centres for health and social care, investing in initiatives that deliver health and social care services through telemedicine and video links.
  • Overhaul the formula for NHS funding of commissioning groups to include a sparsity factor, and revise the public health funding allocations given to higher tier local authorities to better reflect local needs and take account of the rural premium.
  • Drop plans to remove the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee for GP surgeries, or amend the scheme, for example by providing targeted funding, so that smaller rural surgeries can remain viable.

Members of the Rural Coalition share a vision for rural areas as a living, working countryside which balances the competing demands for growth, sustainability and protecting landscapes. The Rural Coalition is committed to following up the messages of The Rural Challenge 2015 by communicating with Parliamentarians in the run-up to the General Election and engaging with the newly elected Government.

Member of the Rural Coalition include:

Action with Communities in Rural England
Action for Market Towns
Arthur Rank Centre
Campaign to Protect Rural England
Country Land & Business Association
County Councils Network
National Association of Local Councils
National Farmers Union
National Housing Federation
Plunkett Foundation
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
Royal Town Planning Institute
Rural Services Network
Town and Country Planning Association



“Supporting rural communities in Sussex to be vibrant and diverse places in which to live and work.”