Page last updated at 19:42 GMT, Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Fears over the future of Wales' rural areas


Assembly debate on deep rural areas: From Democracy Live

House and fuel prices, post office and pub closures and poor access to broadband threaten the future of rural communities in Wales, AMs have said.

They were debating research that raised concerns about why younger people do not stay in or move to rural areas.

The Wales Rural Observatory report highlighted areas of concern.

Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones led the debate and said it was a commitment of the 'One Wales' coalition government to address the needs of rural areas.

The minister commissioned the Wales Rural Observatory to undertake research into peoples' experience of living in deep rural communities.

Publican Menna Rowlands, from Llanfihangel yng Ngwynfa, near Llanfyllin, Powys
"Our school closed in December, although there hadn't been any children there since the summer. There was a campaign to keep it open, but it closed.

"There was a double blow because nearby Llanwyddyn school closed as well, so it was sad to lose both Welsh schools. The closure of the school has had effect on the village hall where school functions were held. It's quiet and peaceful and I've always lived here apart from a time when I was a nurse in Wrexham.

"I can't imagine living anywhere else. I love it and I know people who live here love it too. The towns of Llanfyllin and Oswestry are nearby, but there are no buses anymore. It can be difficult for elderly people to get about because you need a car in this area, but we are a close-knit community and people usually give one another a lift.

"People in the village have had broadband for a few years, but mobile telephone reception is poor - unless you're standing by the church."

It identified a number of issues including little affordable housing, more expensive vehicle fuel and higher prices in local shops which all contributed to a higher cost of living.

The report said the demand for broadband among deep rural residents was not being met and that many continued to experience variable mobile phone reception.

Residents also felt that they received less value for money and lower levels of service provision for their council tax than urban and more densely populated areas.

According to the Conservatives, the continued closures of rural post offices and pubs has had a damaging impact.

Opposition AMs also urged the assembly government to improve the delivery of public services in rural areas.

Speaking before Tuesday's debate The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) said rural areas were not being treated fairly.

The report classified "deep" rural areas as communities located at least 30 minutes' drive-time from a centre with a population of more than 10,000.

Rural Wales
We expect financial support for the provision of services in deep rural areas
Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales spokesman
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More than 90% of those surveyed in the report said they were satisfied with their local area as a place to live, and 94% rated their quality of life as either "very good" or "fairly quiet".

But there were key issues of concern raised by people living in rural areas which affected daily life.

A CPRW spokesman said: "We would emphasise that deep rural communities should have exactly the same access and level of services as other places in Wales.

"We have called on the assembly to give these areas the same protected equality status as minority groups."

The Welsh Assembly Government has said it has already started work on addressing the issues raised by the report, which was published in December last year.

Last month the assembly government announced plans to use European funding to improve high-speed broadband coverage in rural and isolated parts of Wales.

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