According to new research commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), coastal and rural regions in England and Wales could benefit from a £51bn a year by 2030.
This is due to changes in leisure and working behaviour being seen during the pandemic recovery, with a greater rise in ‘staycation’ holidays, a greater focus on the green economy and a rise in movement of people away from urban areas, as remote and hybrid working arrangements become more commonplace across industries.
The LGA report – titled Rural recognition, recovery, resilience, and revitalisation – suggests that this could help ‘redefine’ rural and coastal communities in England.
It anticipates significant increase in the money available within local economies in these regions, though councils in a number of these areas have warned that disproportionately low wages seen in many coastal and rural communities is making the cost of housing increasingly unaffordable for many workers; in effect, pricing out existing communities, or greatly increasing the reliance on social housing support.
The report found the main industries in these areas to be tourism/hospitality, farming and fishing, all of which were likely to offer lower wages and seasonal work patterns.
In response, to address some of these potential challenges, the LGA is calling for Government investment to improve digital connectivity in these areas. The introduction of more 4G connectivity and improved access to superfast broadband across the country is seen as being able to open up these existing rural and coastal communities to take advantage of increasing remote working opportunities.
The LGA have also called for the redesigning and extension of public transport networks in more isolated areas, opening up greater access to employment and training opportunities for young people.
Cllr Kevin Bentley, Chair of the LGA’s People and Places Board said: “Rural and coastal communities are places which have unique challenges from low income, seasonal working as well as poor connectivity but also significant opportunities which can be utilised as we recover from the pandemic.
“With a rise in homeworking, 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.
“With the right powers and resources, councils can play a lead role in levelling up and ensuring no areas of the country, including our coastal and rural communities, are left behind.”