OECD Rural Policy Reviews

1990-9284 (en ligne)
1990-9276 (imprimé)
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This series presents comprehensive reviews of rural policy in individual countries as well as analytical reports on various aspects of rural policy.
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OECD Rural Policy Reviews: England, United Kingdom 2011

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25 jan 2011
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9789264094444 (PDF) ;9789264094420(imprimé)

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Rural England plays a significant role in the economy of the United Kingdom, but an even larger social and cultural role. And it is unique among OECD regions, in that it is geographically compact, with rural inhabitants generally no more than a half hour’s drive from an urban area. There is thus a vast amount of interaction between rural and urban populations in England.

England’s rural population is, on average, doing better than the urban population across a broad range of socio-economic indicators. Nevertheless, rural England is also struggling with pockets of poverty and social exclusion, difficulties in maintaining access to high quality public services, an ageing population, and, most importantly, a widespread shortage of affordable housing.

The government has adopted mainstreaming as its rural policy strategy. The objective of mainstreaming is to ensure that people in rural England have access to the same policies and programmes as those available in urban England. While mainstreaming is an attractive policy approach, especially in a country with strong rural-urban interactions such as England, it has proved challenging to implement for different reasons. This report examines the mainstreaming policy response as applied to rural England and suggests ways to increase its effectiveness.

The report will interest academics and policy makers alike as it includes a discussion on governance structures and decentralisation; delivering public services; economic development; and the importance of improving connectivity in the context of rural areas.  While the focus is on rural England, other OECD member countries will also benefit from the insights provided.

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  • Foreword
    With gains in agricultural productivity leading to a dramatic reduction in farm employment, rural regions across the OECD now depend on a wide range of economic engines for growth. Increasing globalisation, improved communications and reduced transportation costs are additional drivers of economic change in rural areas. Traditional policies to subsidise farming have not been able to harness the potential of these economic engines. In 2006, the OECD published a thematic report The New Rural Paradigm: Policies and Governance, which seeks to explain the shift in rural development policies to account for these important economic changes and the need for a new approach to governance.
  • Acronyms and Abbreviations
  • Assessment and Recommendations
    England lies above the OECD average for intermediate and predominantly urban regions in terms of territory, population and share of GDP. Using the OECD definition, about 10% of England’s population is considered rural. In intermediate regions, the rural population makes up about 28% of the total, while it is about 4% in predominantly urban regions. Using the rural typology employed by the UK authorities, roughly 80% of the population is classified as urban (living in a place of more than 10 000 inhabitants) and 20% is rural. Of the 9.6 million rural residents only 600 000 (6%) live in "sparse" rural areas but they constitute the vast majority of the population of these areas, since there are only 100 000 urban residents in sparse areas. By contrast, the roughly 9 000 000 rural residents in "less sparse" areas are only 20% of the total population. One can roughly identify the less sparse territory as being adjacent to, or influenced by, urban settlements, while the sparse territory is relatively free from major urban influences.
  • Introduction
    This Rural Policy Review of England is part of the ongoing work activity of the Rural Policy Programme of the OECD. The broad goals for the set of reviews are to identify how a particular country conducts its rural policies, and, to use this information to help all OECD member countries develop more coherent frameworks for future rural policy that reflects current best practices in other countries. In particular, the reviews focus on how countries can help improve the efficiency of the local economies within their rural regions, so that rural citizens and firms can achieve their full potential.
  • Profile of Rural England
    The OECD Rural Policy Reviews analyse rural policy and the conditions that typically characterise development in rural areas: low population densities, absence of large cities, long distances between settlements and limited internal economic and social linkages. In this sense, the Rural Review of England, UK is no different. However as the characteristics visible in other OECD rural areas are either not all present, or are present but in markedly different ways, and urban rural interaction is more significant, this study of England offers an interesting perspective. Chapter one reveals that living close proximity to an urban place presents different rural "development" challenges. One such challenge in England is balancing push and pull factors, like preserving land and ensuring regional labour markets work efficiently and improving the availability of rural housing. This chapter sets the tone for the later policy discussion by providing an overview of the key aspects of rurality in England. The first section introduces the definition of "rurality" in the context of the OECD and England. The second section analyses rural demographic trends, focusing on the impact of migrants and commuting patterns in rural England. This is followed, in the third section, by a look at the socio-economic conditions typical to rural England; poverty, social exclusion, the availability of services and housing are some of the issues discussed. The last two sections, provide a sense of not just the rural economy but the factors that have the greatest potential to drive rural economic development.
  • England's Rural Policy and Governance Mechanisms
    Understanding rural policy in the English context requires analysing: 1) the evolution of rural policy in England, and 2) considering the overall approach to rural policy today, including governance and financial mechanisms, as well as stakeholders. Accordingly, this chapter focuses on policy responses to the rural challenges in England identified in chapter one, that led to mainstreaming as the rural policy approach currently in place in England. The evolution of rural policy in England, the policies, and the institutional frameworks underpinning the design and delivery of rural policy are discussed. The chapter is structured as follows: the first section sets out, in three phases, an abridged historical timeline of rural policy development and the transition from a rural policy that is "linked" to agricultural policy to one that is both separated and more "mainstreamed". The subsequent two sections discuss the mainstreaming policy approach at the national and the subnational levels along with identifying key actors and mechanisms. The fourth section analyses the financial framework associated with rural policy. Finally, as changes in housing policy and spatial planning greatly impact rural areas, key developments in this regard are considered separately in a last section.
  • Assessment of England's Rural Policy
    This chapter analyses England’s rural mainstreaming, within the context of the OECD’s New Rural Paradigm (NRP). It begins with a discussion of the NRP and the different types of policy permutation that flow from it, and inherent challenges associated with each. The analysis then moves to the complexities associated with: mainstreaming rural, rural proofing and improving the "rural evidence". This is followed by a discussion on devolution and the importance of maximising the rural voice in England. Devolution and subsidiarity in particular are very important concepts in the United Kingdom. A discussion on decentralisation elucidates the "pitfalls" or "gaps" that become visible when the commitment to devolution varies. The last sections assess the critical issues related to housing, service delivery and the links between English Policy and EU policy. Throughout this chapter, critical issues are put forward that appear to be obstacles to a more efficient and effective rural policy in England.
  • Policy Recommendations for Rural England
    Based on the analysis of the English rural context and the current approach to rural development, this chapter offers a number of policy recommendations to help mainstreaming and rural mainstreaming better adapt to the heterogeneous and rapidly evolving context in rural England. The recommendations are captured under six overarching themes that emerged as a way to organise policy to enhance rural development in England. These are: i) develop more effective governance structures in the framework of decreasing budget outlays; ii) enhance mainstreaming to increase the impact on rural communities; iii) bridge a key divide by considering the needs of rural citizens in the Regional City framework; iv) strengthen the rural economy; v) ensure equitable access to services; and vi) expand connectivity.
  • Évaluation et recommandations
    L’Angleterre se situe au-dessus de la moyenne de l’OCDE en ce qui concerne les régions intermédiaires et majoritairement urbaines en termes de territoire, de population et de part du PIB. Selon la définition de l’OCDE, environ 10 % de la population de l’Angleterre est considérée comme rurale. Dans les régions intermédiaires, la part de la population rurale représente 28 %, contre 4 % seulement dans les régions majoritairement urbaines. Suivant la typologie utilisée par les autorités britanniques, à peu près 80 % de la population est classée dans la catégorie « urbaine » (vivant dans un lieu de plus de 10 000 habitants) et 20 % est classée dans la catégorie « rurale ». Sur les 9.6 millions de résidents ruraux, seuls 600 000 (6 %) vivent dans des zones rurales « clairsemées » mais ils constituent l’essentiel de la population de ces zones, puisque l’on ne compte que 100 000 résidents urbains de zones clairsemées. En revanche, les quelque 9 000 000 résidents ruraux de zones « moins clairsemées » ne représentent que 20 % de la population totale. Un territoire moins clairsemé est en gros une zone adjacente à des peuplements urbains, ou sur laquelle ces derniers influent, tandis que le territoire clairsemé subit peu d’influences urbaines importantes.
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