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John Simkin

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Rates of migration vary widely between regions. Rural districts in the north-east gained around 800 people in 2001-02, while their counterparts in the south-west gained 29,500 new residents. Net migration from urban to rural districts is estimated at 115,400 people in the 12 months to June 2002, and the overall trend towards rural life has been taking place for the last 15 years. Fourteen million people (28.5% of the population) now live in England's rural areas. This is causing housing problems. In 2003, 37% of the rural population spent more than half their income on mortgage payments, compared with 26% of urban residents. However, for many people living in rural areas, buying a house on their low income is out of the question. The Countryside Agency have just published a report on this growing problem of rural migration.


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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Andrew Moore

Do these statistics show whether these are first or second homes?

If people move to the country to work (as is possible for many of us who use computer technologies), then we are maybe reversing a trend that began several centuries ago.

If people retain highly-paid jobs in London, Leeds, Manchester, then buy a second home in the country (and cause inflation, by outbidding each other), that's a different matter.

In the towns, rather than try to control property prices, councils provide social housing (not enough of it for some of us). In the country, there is far less such provision - there is a historical and cultural expectation that less well-paid workers will either get housing as a benefit in kind (the tied cottage for the gamekeeper or farmhand), or somehow make ends meet. (People may resist social housing for reasons of pride.)

Computer technologies are making a real difference. A few years ago, scandalously, schools in the East Riding bought technical support from a company in Oxfordshire, by phoning up "experts" who would read from the manuals. Now the schools mostly buy their support from people who live and work in our county - that's one small part of the way that technology can revive the rural economy.

And if more people live here, with more disposable income, then there will be more horse-riding, shooting and so on - so more jobs for farriers, gamekeepers, craft workers. We may even keep the pubs and village shops.

One other detail that your statistics don't show is the ethnic origin - it's still rare for British people from Asian or Afican-Caribbean backgrounds to move to some parts of the country (East Yorkshire, certainly). But maybe that will change soon.

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