The Challenges Faced by Rural Planners
In a country such as England there are many different types of distinctive landscapes, natural habitats and specific wildlife to consider. The rural areas of the country are steeped in tradition of natural beauty, but it is also a home to around 12 million people. When you consider the vast numbers of people living in the English countryside, the businesses located in rural areas and the produce and essential eco-services present, it is easy to see why rural planners face such difficult challenges as they seek to improve the rural landscape by intertwining urban dynamics with natural rural aesthetics.
Since the end of the Second World War in 1945 there have been consistent rural policies that support urban containment, conservation measures, recreation and agriculture progress and performance. This approach includes Green Belts to protect rural areas from the encroachment of urbanisation, designated areas such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and a whole host of other short-term measures and policies that seek to enhance rural areas.
Since the early 90s rural planners have been working to tweak the approach slightly, to ensure that rural communities can grow and evolve in a similar way to how big city regeneration has worked in many parts of the country. Due to the emergence of restrictions on rural areas (which were required in many ways), there has been a stagnation of growth in many rural areas, a small selection of unaffordable homes, declining services and lower average wages. There has been a shift in emphasis to improve rural areas in a way that continue to protect natural beauty but that also helps the countryside become a living, breathing entity that works on every level for its occupants without losing its integrity and succumbing to the mass urbanisation of the rest of the country.
Rural planners and urban architects tasked with bringing some inner city architectural nous to the countryside are looking at ways in which a legacy of sustainable rural communities can be achieved. By building a wide range of quality services to the countryside and adding to an effective infrastructure, it is hoped that the natural landscape can be enhanced and accentuated. The people who choose to live and work in the English countryside must be provided with a home that is exciting, meets challenges linked to the economy and the climate, remains unique and is an enjoyable place to be.
In the immediate future there is a desire and a requirement to create these sustainable rural communities that are thriving economically, where slightly larger market towns can grow, meeting the need for affordable housing (which is a challenge throughout the country in both urban areas and the countryside) and to build and maintain the cherished services that all areas were once used to.
Through an integrated approach between different government departments, Rural England and development companies, it is believed that these measures can be implemented and targets met, ensuring that the countryside remains loved and effective as a working organism that collaborates well with urban areas but is not dependent on them and in danger of being swallowed up eventually.