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Outpriced and overlooked: CPRE survey on young people in rural areas

14th October 2021

New research by CPRE shows that poor public transport, a lack of affordable housing and feelings of loneliness all contribute to most young people moving away from the countryside.

CPRE commissioned YouGov to carry out research with young people aged 16-25 living in rural areas. Over 1000 young people took part in the survey, which found that only two in five young people expect to stay in the countryside over the next five years.

Key findings:

  • Only two in five young people living in rural areas (43%) anticipate staying there over the next five years, with affordable housing being their biggest concern (72%)
  • Social housing waiting lists continue to grow – as separate analysis shows the backlog would take 121 years to clear in rural areas
  • Two-thirds (66%) were concerned about infrequent and unreliable public transport
  • Limited public transport and difficulty connecting with friends online appear to have increased feelings of isolation – 84% of those looking to move away said loneliness was a factor
  • More than three quarters (76%) of those planning to leave said poor digital connectivity – meaning broadband as well as patchy mobile phone coverage – had influenced their desire to move
  • Fewer than a quarter (23%) of young people surveyed wanted to go into the workplace full time, suggesting broadband will become increasingly important for the rural economy as flexible working becomes more common

Read the full report

‘Fewer than one in five told us that they think their future looks bright.’
Optimism for the future amongst those young people who took part was at a low, with fewer than one in five (18%) saying they think their future looks bright.
CPRE has been campaigning for better rural public transport and affordable housing for some time now. Our ‘Every village, every hour’ bus campaign calls for a better bus service for those in rural communities, to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: 

‘A thriving countryside depends on young people being able to study, work and start families in rural areas. But the sad reality is that the majority of young people born and raised in the countryside feel they can no longer afford to live there – despite the overwhelming majority saying they would like to.

‘A fraction of the young people we heard from feel they are listened to by decision makers. This is troubling, for their concerns came through loud and clear. Second only to unaffordable housing, young people in the countryside said isolation and loneliness was their biggest concern. The shameful inequities of rural life mean young people growing up today struggle simply to meet up with their friends – in person or online – because public transport and broadband in the countryside has been treated as an afterthought for too long.

‘The shameful inequities of rural life’

‘We must do better. To really level up the countryside the government must, at a bare minimum, guarantee hourly flat fare bus services running from morning to midnight, seven days a week, for our rural towns and villages. We must ensure that everyone has access to reliable, affordable and convenient public transport.

‘And in the forthcoming Spending Review, we’re calling on the government to allocate £12.8 billion of funding a year to tackle the housing crisis, with a fair proportion allocated to rural areas to deliver genuinely affordable and well-designed homes for rural communities.’

Read the full report