How is the rural landscape changing?

How are rural areas changing?

Rural landscapes in the UK are experiencing significant change. Although the majority of people live in urban environments, 19% of the population live in rural areas. Despite rural areas not appearing crowded, the population in most rural areas is growing due to counter-urbanisation. People are migrating from urban to rural areas for a better quality of life. In real terms, the population of urban environments is growing more rapidly than in rural areas due to natural increase and immigration.

Major cities in the UK are surrounded by a greenbelt, an area of green, open space where development is restricted. Within, and just beyond the greenbelt are desirable towns and villages from which commuters can travel to work. Urban areas would have experienced much more significant growth if it was not for the protection of greenbelts.

There is increasing pressure on the UK government to allow development within greenbelts due to the housing shortage the country is facing.

Even rural areas furthest from urban areas are becoming popular with tourists and second homeowners. This is the case in places that are national parks, such as the Lake District,  and North Norfolk.

House prices in rural areas have increased significantly due to the increased demand for housing. The rising cost of properties in rural areas has made homes for local people unaffordable in some areas. This has led to more people having to rent or move to another area where they are more likely to afford to buy a property.

What is the impact of increasing population in rural areas?

Southeast England experiences the most significant pressure on rural areas in England. This is because people with jobs in London want to live in a more attractive environment which brings a range of benefits and problems.

Benefits of population growth in rural areas 

  • An increased population leads to a higher demand for goods and services. This helps ensure the future of rural shops, schools and businesses.
  • It provides balance to rural-urban migration, particularly as young people move away in search for better opportunities.
  • New people are more likely to invest in new, local businesses.
  • New developments in rural areas provide jobs.

Problems of population growth in urban areas

  • Rural areas can lose shops as commuters buy products in supermarkets in urban areas on their way home from work.
  • The increase in ‘outsiders’ can change the social fabric and rural culture.
  • Older people tend to move to rural areas, which raises the average age.
  • House prices often increase rapidly due to wealthy newcomers, pushing out local people.
  • Car owning commuters do not require public transport, so services may be reduced, affecting local people.
  • Resentment may is felt towards new members of the rural community
  • Modern developments in rural areas cause tensions with the local community.
  • The sale of agricultural land in rural areas can lead to unemployment in the local community.

What happens in an area of population decline?

The Outer Hebrides

The Outer Hebrides are a group of islands off the northwest coast of Scotland. Since 1901 it has experienced a 50 per cent decline in its population, mainly due to young people moving away. They have migrated to the mainland in search of jobs. The current community is around 27,000, and most inhabitants live on the islands of Lewis.

Social impacts:

  • School closures could result from fewer children
  • An ageing population, caused by the migration of young people, will require higher amounts of social care, which will have social and economic impacts
  • A further decline in the fishing and farming industry due to the ageing population

Economic impacts:

  • Maintaining transport services such as ferries and other services is very costly
  • There has been a significant decline in traditional fishing for lobsters and prawns
  • Tourism has become an essential source of income. However, the infrastructure is struggling to cope with this
  • Shellfish catches have increased, due to more foreign boats

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