Star Count began on Saturday (February 26) and there’s plenty for us all to get involved in over the next week or so. This year, we’re putting a particular focus on north Kent’s Swanscombe peninsula, a site home to a fantastic range of wildlife but threatened by plans for the London Resort theme park. As part of the campaign to save the peninsula from development, we aim to count the stars on-site and more broadly in the local area to demonstrate how much of a dark oasis the peninsula is – and how its wildlife could be affected by the blinding lights of a theme park. Together with our friends at Save Swanscombe Peninsula, we are asking people in the area from tomorrow (Tuesday, March 1) to get involved by turning off their lights and turning up the stars. This involves:
Choosing a clear night
Counting how many stars you can see within the constellation of Orion
Sharing your photos on our social-media pages with the hashtag #starcount
If you don’t know where Orion is, you can download a free CPRE Star Count family activity pack, which includes a checklist and star-finder template, here Finally, we can all meet up in person for our Dark Skies Event on Saturday, March 5, when we will be gathering on the peninsula at 5.30pm to experience the magic of the stars, count them and just enjoy the beauty of the site. To sign up to the Swanscombe Star Count use the QR code on the poster below or click here
To join us for our Dark Skies Event at Botany Marshes, Northfleet, Swanscombe DA10 0PP, on March 5, phone 01233 714540 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Also check out the poster at the top of this story. If you would like to come along, please print off, read and sign the risk assessment form here If you are unable to do that, we will have forms at the event itself. CPRE Kent and Save Swanscombe Peninsula are also working with Buglife, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust in a combined effort to protect this wonderful site. To keep in touch with what we’re all doing, visit the CPRE Kent website
People are being asked to take part in the annual Star Count to record how clear our view is of the night sky. CPRE, the countryside charity, is working with the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies to map light pollution levels across the country. In the biggest citizen science project of its kind – which began on Saturday (February 26) and runs until Sunday, March 6 – people are being asked to count the number of stars they see in the Orion constellation to help map the best and worst places in the UK to enjoy a star-filled night sky. The results will be compared with 2021’s findings, gathered during lockdown, which revealed a notable drop in the number of people experiencing severe light pollution given urban areas were much quieter and fewer large buildings were in use. A clear view of a star-filled night sky has a hugely beneficial effect on our mental health and, like access to other forms of nature, helps reduce stress and increase a sense of peace and well-being. Research has even shown that regularly spending time looking at the stars can lower blood pressure and reduce depression. Yet, the night sky, which is a hugely significant part of our natural environment, has no legal protection. Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “The night sky is one half of our experience of nature, but we don’t often think of it like that. In and of itself, it helps balance our mental health and boost our emotional well-being. Recollect that experience of a starry sky and you instinctively know it soothed you. “But our view of the night sky – and all the benefits it undoubtedly brings – is being blotted out by light pollution. Like all forms of pollution, it is damaging our mental and physical health and also having a severe impact on wildlife. Yet it is a form of pollution that is allowed to increase year on year without any effort being made to control the damage it is causing.” In 2021, more than 7,000 people took part in CPRE’s Star Count. The proportion of people reporting ‘severe light pollution’, defined as 10 stars or fewer being visible to the naked eye in the Orion constellation, had declined from 61 per cent to 51 per cent. The proportion of ‘truly dark skies’, defined as more than 30 stars being visible within the Orion constellation, had increased from 3 per cent to 5 per cent. This was likely due to the count taking place during lockdown, with reduced levels of artificial light leading to a clearer view of the night sky. Now people are being urged to once again come together for one of the nation’s biggest citizen science projects to help discover if light pollution has increased since the end of lockdown – and where the best views of the stars can be found. Emma Marrington, dark skies campaigner from CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “We need your help to find out if light pollution has increased over the past year and if more people are experiencing darker night skies. The results from Star Count will help us create a map of where star-spotters are enjoying deep, dark star-filled skies. By showing on a map where light pollution is most serious, we can work with local councils and others to decide what to do about it. “Star Count is a great way to switch off from the distractions of daily life and reconnect with nature – and by taking part as a citizen scientist, you can help us protect and improve everyone’s view of a clear, sparkling night sky.” Light pollution means many people only experience a limited view of the night sky, while it also disrupts wildlife’s natural patterns. By showing where views are most affected by light pollution, the evidence can be used to help protect and enhance the nation’s dark skies, improving our health, well-being, wildlife and the environment. Bob Mizon, of the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies, said: “The night sky is a great antidote to the stresses of modern life – you go out, look up and suddenly everything is calm. “Just as we have an affinity with trees and the rest of nature, we have a connection to the night sky. It is literally 50 per cent of our environment – from east to west – and it is the only part of our environment that has no protection in law. “People are very rapidly coming to the conclusion that what we do to the environment has a direct impact on our well-being. The same as coral reefs dying off and rivers clogged with plastic bags – one more aspect of our impact on the environment is our pollution of the night sky and yet it is completely unprotected.”
For more on Star Count and how to take part, see here
For two weeks in February and March 2022, we’re again asking for your help in looking up at the heavens. Can you help us by counting stars to measure our dark skies? We think that dark and starry skies are a special part of our countryside. Nothing beats looking upwards to see velvety blackness, with twinkling constellations as far as the eye can see. Our buildings and roads emit light, though, and this can affect our view of truly dark skies. We want to make sure that we can all enjoy starlit nights and we need your help in measuring what effect light is having on our views of the galaxy.
What is Star Count? The best way to see how many stars we can all see in the sky is… to count them! So we’re asking people from all across the country to become ‘citizen scientists’ and look heavenwards for one night. Join in by choosing a clear night between Saturday, February 26, and Sunday, March 6, and becoming a stargazer. Pop the dates in your diary now! With brilliant support from the British Astronomical Association, we’re asking you to look up at the constellation Orion and let us know how many stars you can count. Don’t worry: we’ll give plenty of support on how to do this. Once you’ve done your star-spotting, we’ll share a form with you where you can quickly and easily send us your count – and then we get busy with our number-crunching. Your results from Star Count will help us make a map of where star-spotters are enjoying deep, dark skies. By showing on a map where light pollution is most serious, we can work with local councils and others to decide what to do about it. Better still, Star Count is also a great way to switch off from the distractions of daily life and reconnect with nature. Look up at the cosmos and… breathe.
How to take part in Star Count Here are a few top tips for a brilliant Star Count evening:
Try to pick a clear night for your count, with no haze or clouds, then wait until after 7pm so the sky is really dark.
Looking south into the night sky, find the Orion constellation, with its four corners and ‘three-star belt’.
Let your eyes adjust to the darkness for as long as possible (we recommend at least 20 minutes), then count the stars that you can see within the four corners of Orion (check out the picture above, which shows you how).
Make a note of the number of stars seen with the naked eye and submit your count on our website when the results page opens that week.
Share your experiences (and any photos) with others on social media using #StarCount
And don’t forget to check back to see the national results and how your area compares to the rest of the country!
Get ready to count! Remember, you can do your 2022 Star Count on any night between February 26 and March 6. Make a note of the dates now and keep your eyes peeled for weather forecasts nearer the time to pick a night with skies that are as clear as possible.
Sign up now to take part and for more information about Star Count, including top tips for the best times to see Orion and more information about why we care so much about our magical dark sky views.
There is huge untapped potential to level up access to nature for people living in our towns and cities by giving local parks the same sorts of protection from development as national parks. A little-known yet hugely powerful rule allows local communities to ringfence their recreation grounds, community gardens, fields popular with dog-walkers and other locally-valued green spaces from development. And yet this provision – contained within the National Planning Policy Framework and designed specifically to protect the pockets of nature most valued by local people – is, curiously, close to unknown. That is why CPRE, the countryside charity, is calling on the government to encourage all local authorities to promote the use of the Local Green Space designation as widely as possible. It is a unique clause in planning rules that empowers local people to apply national park-style protection from development to their most valued local green spaces. And yet, in the most nature-deprived neighbourhoods, where it could have huge value for poorer communities, it is a tool that is barely ever used. New research by CPRE has, for the first time, mapped the total number of Local Green Spaces protected. More than 6,500 have been created since 2012, often to protect valued land on the edge of villages. But the research shows that inner cities and densely-populated urban areas, which are more likely to be populated by poorer communities and people of colour, are the least likely to have benefited. Wealthier parts of the south and midlands had the majority of Local Green Space designations, while the poorest regions in the north had the fewest. That’s why this is such an important mechanism for levelling up – much more needs to be done to help all communities, and particularly those in the north, preserve their last, and often only, patches of green. Local Green Spaces are small parcels of land, close to where people live, that are demonstrably special to their community for reasons that can include their beauty, historical significance, recreational value, tranquillity or richness of wildlife. It is a neighbourhood planning tool with unique power because it implies that being valued by local people is in itself a strong enough reason to protect small patches of green space. Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, said: “This is a solution to levelling up that has been hiding in plain sight – a planning superpower in the hands of ordinary people. “All that people have to prove is they use and value the land for it to be eligible to be protected like it’s a national park. Unfortunately, there is a sliding scale of injustice when it comes to who is benefitting. Put simply, the poorer you are and the more nature-deprived your neighbourhood already is, the less likely you are to have any protected Local Green Space. It’s time to address this imbalance and level up everyone’s access to nature. “That is why we’re calling on the government to promise the equivalent of a national park for every neighbourhood. Local Green Space designation is a powerful way to protect vulnerable slices of nature, particularly in deprived areas. It has the added benefit of nurturing neighbourhood planning groups so that residents get more of a say in what gets built locally. “Our iconic national parks are rightly celebrated and protected. But research repeatedly shows they are not accessible to all – and that the poorest in society benefit the least. That’s why it should be a national priority to protect our local parks and green spaces so that everybody, no matter where they live, has access to the benefits of nature.” Despite its fantastic potential as a tool to protect recreational or nature-rich urban areas, much more could be done to improve the usefulness of Local Green Space designation.
Key recommendations to ensure Local Green Space designation delivers on levelling up urban areas include:
• Making climate change adaptation and mitigation an explicit reason for land to be locally valued
• Embedding compulsory standards for access to nature within planning law
• Strengthening of protections against development on sites with Local Green Space designation
• Furthering support for neighbourhood planning across England, particularly in areas with low take-up, and encouraging public participation throughout the planning process.
A surge in the number of homes marketed for Airbnb-style short-term lets is crippling the residential rentals market, new research shows. The problem is most acute in staycation hotspots, where hundreds of homes previously available to rent to local people have been switched to short-stay holiday rentals. The worsening housing crisis – which is particularly acute in rural areas – has seen thousands of families added to social-housing waiting lists. A steep decline in the number of new social-housing projects completed since 2013 is compounding the problem. That is why CPRE, the countryside charity, is calling for tighter controls on second-home ownership, including higher council tax on second homes and the requirement for short-term lets to have planning permission. Additionally, the definition of ‘affordable’ must be changed in national planning policy, with rents being tied to local incomes rather than market prices. To level up our rural communities, changes to planning law and policy should be committed to in the government’s forthcoming Planning Bill, requiring at least one new genuinely affordable home for every market home built. Alex Macintyre, 37, from Plymouth, was evicted by her landlord because he would make more money listing her flat on Airbnb. “I lived in my last flat for five years until the landlord decided to renovate and do the place up to perfection so he could rent it out on Airbnb,” said Alex. “Plymouth has become a city of holiday lets. Fewer homes available for residents means higher rents, and people being priced out of their local areas in search of a home. That erodes local communities and starves local businesses of workers. The only people who benefit are the landlords.” In many areas, social-housing waiting lists could be drastically reduced or even eliminated if the number of properties advertised for short-term let were available for local families instead, the analysis shows.
• In Cornwall, which saw short-term listings grow 661 per cent in the five years to September 2021, there are some 15,000 families on social-housing waiting lists and the same number of properties being marketed as holiday lets
• In South Lakeland, which saw a 1,231 per cent increase in short-term listings between 2016-20, about half the families in need of social housing could be accommodated in properties exclusively available for holiday rentals
• In Cumbria, a 4 per cent decline in the number of privately-rented properties coincided with a 14 pe cent increase in families on social-housing waiting lists since 2016
• In Devon, short-term lets appear to be worsening an existing housing crisis, with almost 4,000 homes taken out of private rent and 11,000 added to short-term listings since 2016
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “Across our most traditional rural communities, from the beaches of Cornwall to the lakes of Cumbria, homes that used to be rented to local families sit empty for much of the year. “More people are pushed on to social-housing waiting lists, which have been stretched to breaking point by years of underinvestment. Hard-working people are suffering and they will not easily forgive a government that promised to level them up if it leaves them falling through the cracks of a broken system. “It’s clear the government needs to act fast to avert a growing housing crisis. With the cost of living set to hammer people’s finances in the coming year, this is a problem that’s quickly getting out of hand. There simply has to be a government response to the fact that our rural-housing supply is disappearing into an unregulated short-term rentals market that simply didn’t exist six years ago. “Ministers must introduce tighter controls on second-home ownership, including higher council tax on second homes and the requirement for short-term lets to have planning permission.” Separate analysis by CPRE found the demand for social housing was growing almost six times faster than the rate of supply in rural areas. At current rates, the backlog of low-income families needing accommodation would take 121 years to clear. Figures show 8,898 households were added to social-housing waiting lists in 88 rural local authority areas between 2019-20, the last year for which figures are available, with just 1,453 social homes delivered. In total, 176,058 rural families were waiting for accommodation in 2020, up from 167,160 in 2019. Selaine Saxby, Conservative MP for North Devon, said: “We need to make the long-term rental market more sustainable and attractive. We cannot rely on building ever more homes if they are not going to be lived in by local residents. “Our excellent housing associations in North Devon do great work in building modern affordable homes, but they will not be able to keep up with demand if the balance between short-term and long-term private rental markets is not restored.”
One of the Kent countryside’s greatest champions was honoured in the summer through the unveiling of a new memorial. Cyril Chettoe was chairman of the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural Kent – a forerunner to CPRE Kent – and a memorial in the form of a tablet on a stone with trees planted around it had been placed at Hubbards Hill on the Greensand Way overlooking Weald village after his death in 1963. With the passing of the years, the stone became almost hidden by surrounding undergrowth and the Sevenoaks committee took on the task of creating a more permanent memorial. With the help of Weald Parish Council, undergrowth was cleared, a new plaque was erected and on Wednesday, July 7, a ceremony took place where John Wotton, chairman of CPRE Kent, unveiled it. Nigel Britten, chairman of Sevenoaks CPRE, described how the right solution had been found, for which he thanked Dr Susan Pittman, the committee’s secretary, who had designed the memorial. He then introduced the CPRE Kent chairman, who paid warm tribute to Cyril: “He was a dedicated supporter of CPRE, chaired the Kent branch and is credited with its revival. Whether he was one of our founding members in 1929, when he was in his mid-30s, is not recorded in our archives, but if he was living in Kent at the time it is quite likely that he was. “He evidently had broad historical and environmental interests, as the list of his activities on the memorial demonstrates, reflecting the range of considerations we have to bear in mind when we seek to protect the countryside. “These include landscape and natural beauty, archaeology, the historic built environment, care for our country towns and rural villages, the natural environment and biodiversity, housing, infrastructure, sustainable transport and combatting climate change. “Cyril Chettoe concerned himself with many of these issues, through the organisations he supported, in particular CPRE Kent. “If he is to be credited with our revival under his active chairmanship, then we indeed have cause to be grateful and I hope that, if he were to see CPRE Kent at work now, he would be gratified and feel that his efforts were worthwhile.” Cyril was a busy man and, aside from being heavily involved in CPRK, was also founder of the Sevenoaks and District Civic Society (later to become the Sevenoaks Society) and chairman from 1945 until he died. David Green, the present chairman, was present at the ceremony and also paid tribute. A civil engineer by trade, with special talents in bridge-building, Cyril had worked for both the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Health, while he was involved in the routeing of the Sevenoaks bypass, which you might know better as the A21. It was perhaps in the 1950s that his contribution to planning in his hometown of Sevenoaks was most marked as he battled to ensure protection of its most historically and architecturally valuable buildings. While that town has special reason to celebrate Cyril Chettoe and his work, his love of Kent – its countryside and built environment alike – gives us all reason to be grateful.
Well, that was a year! It was of course tough on many for any number of reasons, but the Covid-19 pandemic has continued to dominate proceedings and our thoughts go to those who suffered personal loss.Through it all, CPRE Kent has been here fighting to keep our county special and we thank everyone who has been alongside us to give their support. Now, though, it’s time to share time with our loved ones and perhaps even take a well-earned breather… Happy Christmas!
They came from Cliffe, they came from Eccles, they came from Tunbridge Wells, they came from Folkestone, they came from Thanet… north, south, east and west, they came from across the county to join Kent’s Day of Action. More than 1,000 people gathered on Sunday, November 28, for the Save Kent’s Green Spaces protest organised by Dave Lovell. All were expressing their anger and upset over the loss of so much countryside to development. The turnout of more than 30 groups on a bitingly cold day was an extraordinary result, especially given the short notice of the event. Mr Lovell, who had been so involved with the Save Capel group, said: “At least 30 groups came out, some of them joining up together. Most sent us photos and many of these have placed in a digital photo album.” Highlighting the staggering onslaught facing Kent in the coming years, Mr Lovell said: “We’ve estimated that 17,000 acres are under threat of widespread development – an area larger than Manhattan Island – but we know that’s nowhere near the true figure and that is scary. “The figures don’t cover just housing – they include solar farms, for example. And there’s the concern that those solar farms are the thin end of the wedge, paving the way for housing that will theoretically get its power from them. They can be a trigger for further development, which is happening around Capel [near Tunbridge Wells].” Sadly, many reading this will concur wholeheartedly with Mr Lovell’s view that “there is a huge scale of destruction coming like nothing we’ve seen before”. “This counting of the destruction of countryside is not being done by councils – no one is actually counting how much is being lost,” he added. He was understandably delighted that so many people came out: “It was a fantastic response. Anyone can put ‘likes’ or emojis on social media – it’s much harder to get feet on the ground. “When we started this, we had no idea what the response would be. But on the day itself we were sitting in the pub after our walk and the phones were going ballistic as the pictures came in. Then we had an idea of what we had achieved.”
Well, who doesn’t like a Christmas party? Last year, of course, we at CPRE Kent – like so many others – were not able to meet friends and colleagues for a festive gathering due to Covid-19 restrictions, so this year’s event seemed all the more uplifting. Our Christmas lunch at The Wagon & Horses near Charing on Friday last week (December 3) was a joy as members, supporters and staff joined to eat a sumptuous meal and – if they were ultra-lucky – take home gifts from the raffle. Let’s hope we can all do it again next year – seeya there!
This year’s AGM was notable perhaps as much as anything for the fact that members were able to join us in person at Lenham Community Centre.
After holding last year’s event in virtual form, using Zoom technology, it was good to get back to our regular venue and catch up with CPRE Kent friends, as well as deal with the more formal matters.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic meant some chose not to join us, so a YouTube link was set up for them to follow proceedings, vote and ask questions – 21 people used that option. With 24 signing in at Lenham, along with five staff members, we hit the half-century on the nail – a wholly creditable effort given still-trying circumstances.
County director Hilary Newport delivered her annual report, chairman John Wotton gave his take on affairs and Lee Dance, head of water resources at South East Water, gave a speech entitled Can Nature Based Solutions help with our Water Challenges?.
As ever, a delightful lunch and cheery conversation rounded off another wholly successful AGM.
We will publish the AGM minutes on this website in due course.
How much more development can Kent take? With the county subjected to increasingly crazy levels of housebuilding, a protest has been planned for people sick of the ongoing destruction of their natural environment. The Day of Action on Sunday (November 28) will involve groups across Kent marching, walking or just plain meeting up to demonstrate their anger and upset over the loss of so much countryside to an incessant barrage of housebuilding schemes. The Save Kent’s Green Spaces protest was put together by Dave Lovell, who had previously been involved with the Save Capel group battling plans by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for 2,800 new houses at Tudeley and another 1,500 at East Capel. “We are essentially an umbrella group and hope to guide others in their lawful protest. We had also always intended that individuals who did not have a campaign to align to could get involved and we are now opening up to them, as well as others who might not be able to make it on the day,” said Mr Lovell. “We’re trying to ratchet up the political pressure and get Boris Johnson to put his words on protecting green fields into practice. “With the National Planning Policy Framework a toothless machine, we would like to see it become advantageous for housebuilding to be on brownfield land, including the repurposing of existing buildings, and disadvantageous for it to be targeted at greenfield land.” At the time of writing, 29 groups across Kent had signed up for the Day of Action. Among them are Save our Heathlands, who will be walking along the North Downs from Lenham Cross to Cherry Downs; Sittingbourne’s Rural Protection Group; Westgate & Garlinge Action Group in Thanet; and Farms, Fields and Fresh Air, Faversham, who will be taking a poignant route from a food hall to the fields being put up for development by Prince Charles. Supporters who join the walks or simply do their own thing are encouraged to take photographs of threatened sites and post them on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #SaveKentsGreenSpaces or email them, with their details, to email@example.com Mr Lovell said: “From the contributions and messages we’ve already had, we’ve estimated that more than 15,300 acres are set to be lost to the proposed housing developments that we know of – but there are far more out there. “We’re not saying the figure represents scientific analysis, even though it’s been checked by a statistician, but it’s a fair estimate. I am also not aware of any form of cumulative impact assessment that might be in place for what seems a huge loss of green space, agricultural land and wildlife habitat. “If the day is successful – and with so many groups taking part we are confident it will be – we hope that other counties will follow suit.”
To learn more or to take part in the Day of Action, whether as a part of an organised group or as an individual, please visit the Save Kent’s Green Spaces Facebook page here or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You are warmly invited to this month’s netwalking event, which will take place in Ebbsfleet this week, on Friday, November 26, at 10am. Places are strictly limited to 15 walkers – if you would like to attend, please complete the form here and email it to email@example.com We have a 4.5-mile walk planned, which will take us through the dirt tracks and footways of Ebbsfleet on a route taking about two and a half hours – it includes a section that will take us up 82 steps (with resting places). Please note: this walk be undertaken at your own risk. We’ll ensure we have forward and back markers, so you can walk at a pace that’s comfortable for you. You will need to wear a pair of sturdy shoes and bring wet-weather gear and water to drink – you’ll also need to be prepared to walk on uneven ground and up steps. If you would like to take part in this month’s event, please complete the attached proforma confirming your contact details (and emergency phone number) – and confirm you understand that you’ll be taking part in this walk at your own risk and will seek medical advice in advance, as appropriate. Details of our starting point (and parking arrangements) will be shared once you have confirmed your attendance. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations to Liz Akenhead, whose work for CPRE Kent has been recognised with a national award. This year saw a record number of volunteers nominated by either their local group or the national charity and at last week’s national conference 35 were awarded a medal and certificate for their efforts. Liz was, of course, nominated by CPRE Kent and in his nomination chairman John Wotton said: “Liz stood down in May 2021 after serving as chair of the Tunbridge Wells district committee for many years. “Throughout this time she has demonstrated extraordinary skill, commitment and determination in contributing to the local planning process and responding to the many threats we have faced. “This has proved to be a consistently challenging task in a borough that faces all the development pressures of a popular South East commuting town, with an area that is 70 per cent within the High Weald AONB and much of the rest either Metropolitan Green Belt or floodplain unsuitable for development. “Liz has brought to bear her knowledge and experience as a solicitor in the field of planning law, which she has shared freely with colleagues. She has mastered every change in planning law and policy and scrutinised thoroughly each new local planning consultation and proposed new development of any significance. “Once she has taken up a matter, she has pursued it relentlessly, skilfully and courteously, gaining the respect of countless councillors and officers. Her final project as chair was to mastermind our response to the Regulation 19 consultation on the new Local Plan, which contained more than 200 detailed submissions, many of which she drafted herself. “Liz has been an inspiring and exemplary district chair, regularly hosting meetings in her home. She has been welcoming to new members and encouraging to us all. She has chaired the committee with consummate dedication and efficiency, setting a standard to which few of us can aspire. She continues to work at least as hard as any other committee member.” Or, to sum it all up, Liz’s certificate detailing the reason for her award reads: “For outstanding service to CPRE Kent for many years, serving as Chair of the Tunbridge Wells District Committee with skill, determination and courtesy, bringing to bear all your knowledge and experience to the protection of the precious countryside of the Weald of Kent.” And so say all of us! Monday, October 25, 2021
A chronic lack of affordable housing, loneliness and poor public transport have left young people living in the countryside so disillusioned that only two in five plan to stay put over the next five years (43 per cent), a new online survey commissioned by CPRE, the countryside charity, and conducted by YouGov has found. It revealed the government’s levelling-up agenda could come too late for today’s rural young people. The soaring cost of housing was identified as the single biggest concern in the nationwide rural survey of 16- to 25-year-olds; 72 per cent said it was a key problem and more than 8 in 10 of those wanting to leave identified it as a major factor (84 per cent). Amid delays to long-awaited planning reforms, this unique survey of more than 1,000 young people living in rural areas found that just 43 per cent of them planned to still be there beyond the next five years. Fewer than one in five (18%) think the future looks bright. Of those planning to leave, 84 per cent said affordable housing was an important factor in their decision. Separate analysis by CPRE found the demand for social housing was growing almost six times faster than the rate of supply in rural areas. At current rates, the backlog of low-income families needing accommodation would take 121 years to clear. Figures show 8,898 households were added to social-housing waiting lists in 88 rural local authority areas between 2019-20, the last year for which figures are available, with just 1,453 social homes delivered. In total, 176,058 rural families were waiting for accommodation in 2020, up from 167,160 in 2019. Commenting on the survey findings, Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “A thriving countryside depends on young people being able to study, work and start families in rural areas. But the sad reality is that the majority of young people born and raised in the countryside feel they can no longer afford to live there – despite the overwhelming majority saying they would like to. “A fraction of the young people we heard from feel they are listened to by decision-makers. This is troubling, for their concerns came through loud and clear. Second only to unaffordable housing, young people in the countryside said isolation and loneliness was their biggest concern. “The shameful inequities of rural life mean young people growing up today struggle simply to meet up with their friends – in person or online – because public transport and broadband in the countryside has been treated as an afterthought for too long. “We must do better. To really level up the countryside the government must, at a bare minimum, guarantee hourly flat fare bus services running from morning to midnight, seven days a week, for our rural towns and villages. We must ensure that everyone has access to reliable, affordable and convenient public transport. “And in the forthcoming Spending Review, we’re calling on the government to allocate £12.8 billion of funding a year to tackle the housing crisis, with a fair proportion allocated to rural areas to deliver genuinely affordable and well-designed homes for rural communities.” After housing, poor-quality public transport and feelings of loneliness and isolation were the next two biggest issues for young people in the countryside. Other key stats include:
Two-thirds (66 per cent) were concerned about infrequent and unreliable public transport
More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of those planning to leave said poor digital connectivity – meaning broadband as well as patchy mobile phone coverage – had influenced their desire to move
Fewer than a quarter (23 per cent) of young people surveyed wanted to go into the workplace full time, suggesting broadband will become increasingly important for the rural economy as flexible working becomes more common
You can read the report Outpriced and overlooked here
After the success of our first netwalking event last month, we are making plans for our next, which will start in Lenham on Friday, October 29, at 2pm. Places are strictly limited to 15 walkers – if you would like to attend, please email email@example.com We have planned a four-mile walk that will take us up the steep slope north of Lenham and on to the Pilgrims’ Way – we will walk a circular route, taking in the views of the site of the proposed garden village settlement at Lenham Heathlands to the south, and return back to the village, where we will enjoy a heritage trail through Lenham. At a leisurely pace, we’ll probably be out for two hours. These walks will be undertaken at your own risk – we’ll ensure that we have forward and back markers, so you can walk at a pace that’s comfortable for you. You will need to wear a pair of sturdy shoes and bring wet-weather gear and water to drink – you’ll also need to be prepared to walk on uneven (and rising) ground and climb over stiles.