2014-12-29  

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Rural Productivity Driven by Hi-Tech Boost

Productivity could grow faster in the countryside than urban areas over the next decade, with a rise in rural jobs, thanks to a high-tech boost from speedier broadband and better transport links, a new analysis has shown.

Increased connectivity, spread of innovation, growth in knowledge-based industries and changes in working patterns are expected to help rural areas catch up with urban areas over the next decade, contributing to the government’s long-term economic plan.

This is expected to deliver higher wages and output of rural areas could potentially increase by around an extra £35 billion.

Increased economic rural opportunities could increase rural employment in England by 6% - or more than 300,000 jobs.

Rural View

photo Colin Brough

The drivers of growth include:

  • improved transport links - the government recently announced £15bn investment in national roads infrastructure. This includes £2 billion to dual the entire A303 and A358 to the south west and build a tunnel at Stonehenge, allowing road users to drive on a dual carriageway from London to within 15 miles of Land’s End.

  • superfast broadband rollout - by 2017 public investment of £1.7 billion will see 95% of UK premises gain access to superfast speeds with work ongoing to identify suitable options to connect the remaining 5% hard to reach areas.

  • tackling mobile phone ‘partial not-spots’ – the government has secured a binding agreement with the mobile networks EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to tackle poor signal issues in so-called ‘partial not-spots’. This includes a £5bn investment programme from the mobile networks to improve mobile infrastructure with guaranteed voice and text coverage from each operator across 90 per cent of the UK by 2017.

  • changes to working practices – according to research a growing group of around 2 million people are choosing to live in rural areas and work from home, thanks to improved connectivity. Other benefits would include shorter commuting times and increased productivity.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

"This is a truly exciting time for rural communities with the countryside set to become even more of an economic powerhouse for the UK, building our economic security.

" Improved infrastructure is a great driver of change and our investment in broadband and transport links, together with improved mobile phone signals, is unlocking the huge potential for growth in the countryside where entrepreneurial activity is outstripping many parts of the UK.

"Whether you’re in a cottage in Cornwall or a small business in one of our great national parks, you are better connected now than ever before – ultimately that means greater opportunities, more jobs and improved wages and a better future. "

The analysis, produced by Defra, shows that although currently workers in rural areas in England are 83% as productive as those in urban areas it suggests rural productivity has the potential to grow faster than the average expected rate for the UK, allowing the countryside to gain ground on towns over the course of a decade.

People living in the countryside are more likely to run their own businesses than people in towns. It is already home to a quarter of all businesses, despite only around 18% of people living in rural areas. Among the fastest growing sectors have been knowledge-based industries like IT and consultancy.

Increasingly, rural entrepreneurs are getting better connected into markets in Britain and around the world, like those living in towns and cities, with improvements to superfast broadband connections and mobile phone signals.

Gov UK

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