A COUNTRYSIDE consortium is demanding action to save rural communities across Cheshire.
The Rural Coalition, comprising six countryside-focused organisations, has produced a report called The Rural Challenge which claims that villages ‘are dying’.
The group warns that budget cuts will slash rural services and expensive house prices will continue to force first-time buyers away from their own villages unless a list of proposals are not met.
Key recommendations in the report include calls to reform the planning system and allow those living in the countryside to solve the affordable housing crisis. It also confirms that rural communities must adopt a do-it-yourself attitude to ensure services stand the best chance of continuing.
Eddisbury MP Stephen O’Brien supports the group’s report, saying: “The greatest need is to empower rural communities at every level.
“We intend to do just that by empowering local people, entrepreneurs, community organisations and parish councils so they can achieve their ambitions for the future by defining their own priorities and innovate their services in line with what the people they represent want, not what Whitehall and big Government wants.”
Residents in Ashton Hayes saved their local shop from closing and opened a new community store earlier this year. In doing so, the local post office was also saved from closure.
A dedicated team of 30 volunteers have taken charge of the daily running of the shop, which has become a vital amenity for pensioners.
Chair Lisa Allman said: “We have a team of volunteers who help out with a range of jobs including book-keeping, working in the shop or helping to deliver or pick up orders. The original shop didn’t close but it would have done had we not taken over.
“All the feedback has been very positive and we are hitting our sales projections. We are very lucky to be supported by the Plunkett Foundation but at the end of the day it is down to the community and the support of local residents.”
To view the full Rural Challenge report, go to www.cpre.org.uk