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Covid-19 recovery could bring £51 billion to rural and coastal areas

Words: Huw Morris
Rural life

The recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic could deliver a £51 billion boost to rural and coastal economies by 2030, according to latest research.

A study by analysts Pragmatix Advisory for the Local Government Association (LGA) says a rise in “staycationing”, people moving away from urban areas and a greater focus on the green economy could help “redefine” England’s rural and coastal communities.

However the research warns that the main industries in these areas are tourism, hospitality, farming and fishing, which are more likely to offer lower wages and seasonal work patterns. Disproportionately low wages in coastal and rural communities are making the cost of housing increasingly unaffordable for many workers, it adds.

The geographical characteristics of rural and coastal locations – such as low population densities, sparsity and remoteness - also present major social and economic challenges. These include poor quality housing, higher suicide rates, more drug-related deaths on the coast, lower educational attainment, an ageing population, and a £102 billion productivity gap.

The LGA is calling on the government to improve digital connectivity, including the introduction of more 4G connectivity and improved access to superfast broadband across the country. It also wants to see the public transport network in more isolated areas to be redesigned and extended to ensure more young people can access job and training opportunities.

“Rural and coastal communities are places which have unique challenges from low incomes, seasonal working as well as poor connectivity but also significant opportunities which can be utilised as we recover from the pandemic,” said LGA people and places board chair Kevin Bentley. 

“With a rise in home working, an unprecedented increase in ‘staycationing’ and greater appreciation for natural resources, there are significant changes taking place in the local economies of rural and coastal parts of the country.

“If the many people who want to make these changes permanent are supported to do so, and the appropriate investment is made in rural and coastal communities to leverage the associated economic opportunities, there is the potential for a substantial levelling up of rural areas’ prosperity.”

•  Download the report Rural recognition, recovery, resilience and revitalisation 

Image credit | iStock