Go to Main Website

News Analysis - The end of the village


Traditional village life is in danger, according to the National Housing Federation, as the cost of country living drives young people into the cities. More than 100,000 under-35s are expected to migrate from villages and market towns across England to urban areas by 2012 because of a “chronic shortage” of affordable places to live.

It warns that schools, shops and transport services could face closure because of the exodus as young workers are priced out of villages by an influx of commuters, second home owners and retirees. Some parts of the countryside have already experienced dramatic changes. For example, in east Dorset, where the average house costs 16 times the average annual income, the number of residents aged between 24 and 35 fell by 38 per cent between 1997 and 2007, with similar falls in west Somerset and south Shropshire.

Waiting lists for affordable housing have risen by 40 per cent in rural areas during the past five years, to 700,000 people. The federation said the number of young people in rural areas had been declining for more than a decade, with 341,000 people aged between 24 and 35 leaving the countryside between 1997 and 2007, the equivalent of 22 per cent of the age group.

The federation warns that traditional village life will die out unless more affordable homes for young people are built and the exodus is stopped. It wants 100,000 homes to be built in rural areas. Government and local authorities to draw up plans to address community needs, it says.

In yet another area of national life, de-regulated capitalism has been found wanting – distorting and undermining rural communities. Planning, housing controls and a national rural programme to fulfil pressing social needs must be forced on to the agenda, else the anarchy of capitalism will ruin rural life.