Many rural communities in the UK have been "left behind" and require a different approach to transport and mobility investment than those in urban areas, a new report says.
National law firm, Foot Anstey, which has offices located in Bristol, Exeter, London, Plymouth, Southampton, Taunton and Truro, has collaborated with global consulting firm WSP on The 30-minute rural community which explores mobility within the UK's rural areas.
The report examines the challenges around rural mobility and the opportunities to create more productive, greener, healthier, quieter and safer communities.
Foot Anstey and WSP found that many rural communities have experienced a reduction in essential services in recent decades, including transport provision, leaving them dependent on cars. This dependency can often limit social and economic development, because those in rural areas who do not drive are often left unable to easily access healthcare, education, employment, leisure activities or social interaction opportunities.
The report comes at a time when rural living has become increasingly desirable due to the fresh opportunities for remote working due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Though around 12 million people in the UK live in rural areas, the report highlights the lack of focus on mobility for these communities to date and sets out where the opportunities lie for investment.
To achieve the 30-minute rural community concept approach, the report recommends three key areas of focus:
The report's authors, Chris Pritchett, partner and head of energy and mobility at Foot Anstey, and Giles Perkins, head of future mobility at WSP, believe that through this three-pronged approach of dispersed healthcare, retail, education and leisure facilities could be connected as a network of facilities, rather than individual outlets.
Moreover, they believe one answer may lie in undertaking joined-up planning to find solutions to improve access to amenities we all depend upon.
Pritchett, commented: "The conversation has changed from assuming people want to be hypermobile all the time. Now, it's about accessibility – to goods, services and opportunities – underpinned by a sense of community. This report helps us identify key factors that need to be improved and addressed."
Perkins said: "Rural communities across the UK face distinctly different challenges to those in urban areas and for too long has this been forgotten. This report helps us think differently about the uniqueness of these places and be creative in how we improve mobility and transport."