This thought paper looks at and promotes the countryside as a valuable and recognised economic asset - especially in light of “developing” it for the economy. It questions whether the proposed Ox-Cam Arc, where so much greenbelt would be displaced, would actually benefit our economy or damage it. A healthy economy does include and requires the countryside too. Many people have continued to work during the pandemic and lockdown due to the nature and resilience of their jobs in the rural economy.
It links to CPRE the Countryside Charity’s vision of a sustainable rural economy that also protects the countryside from inappropriate over-development. Indeed, more people are living out in the countryside – whether in smallholdings or in villages, working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic and thanks to improving internet access. This raises the question as to whether building housing estate after housing estate is a viable or effective way to boost the economy.
Consider the range of services and rural job opportunities, products and how transactions occur and it’s clear to see the countryside is pulling its weight in the economy. Jobs that use, supply, promote and manage the countryside provide livelihoods, generate taxes for the Government and, for example, could reduce dependency on the NHS. This is because the countryside and the recreational opportunities it provides offers people physical and mental health benefits from activities like walking or horse riding, to name just two. Then there are the spin-off economic benefits to think about. Horse riding schools, to mention one example, are customers for feed and tack suppliers, vets, farriers and other service providers.
Part One – Overview of the Countryside’s Economics
Interwoven economic activities all make for a vibrant and diverse rural economy. Healthy communities with green spaces could potentially make fewer demands on the NHS. Desirable rural communities add quality to life. Sustainable jobs that protect biodiversity and ecosystems feed into sectors such as tourism, heritage and nature-based activities. All these factors enhance both the intrinsic value of the countryside and its value to the wider economy in monetary terms.
The graphic below shows just a fraction of the jobs, services and economic opportunities and associations offered in the countryside:
Looking more closely at just a few of these, we can see how many ancillary sectors are involved in addition to all the employment opportunities:
Yet more rural businesses can be found between the pages of countryside-specific magazines, such as Country Life, Town and Country, Country Living or, in this case, the NFU Countryside Magazine from April 2021:
Below are the classified adverts, which cover a few double spreads:
More thoughts on our rich countryside economics will follow as Part Two, which will include the opinions of people who work in a handful of sectors mentioned above.
Thank you for reading!
With kind support and contributions from Lorna Watkins