Issues relating to the rural nature of Somerset
Somerset is one of the most rural counties in England. Its population density of 1.5 people per hectare is well below the England average of 4.1 per hectare. In particular, West Somerset's density of 0.5 per hectare is one of the five lowest of any local authority in England. 48 of Somerset's 138 council wards have a population density of under 1 per hectare, including representatives of all five districts.
In 2015, the Somerset Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) focussed on the impact on health and wellbeing on those who live or work in rural areas. It brings together a wealth of data, intelligence and results of specially-commissioned research. The summary report can be read on our JSNA page but the key points, and where to go to find the supporting data, are set out below.
The GOOD THINGS about living in a rural area?
- Quality and tranquility of environment
- Healthier living, with lower prevalence of many major conditions
- Higher life expectancy
- Greater sense of personal wellbeing
- Lower crime and superior community safety
- Higher school attainment rates
- Strength and friendliness of community
The CHALLENGES arising from living in a rural area?
- Social isolation - for children, young people and the very old,
- Relatively poor mobile signals or broadband speed
- Reliance on private or community transport
- Harder for people to access services and for service providers to reach the people
- Lack of appropriate housing, especially for the young, and concerns about housebuilding
- Fuel poverty, and higher upfront costs for fuel and transport which has a major financial impact on the less well-off
- Lower expectations of work and further education prospects
- For a range of causes of death, the highest rates occur in the small towns.
- People aged more than 75 in rural areas were more likely to be admitted as emergency cases
- Vulnerable to the effects of shrinking public sector budgets
- Increasing ratio of economically inactive to economically active populations in rural areas
Rural England have collated national data on various topics in their report, State of Rural Services 2016. The stated aim is "to inform policy debate and to assist policy making for the benefit of rural residents and businesses". The subjects featured are:-
- Local buses and community transport
- Welfare services
- Access to cash
- Further education
- The retail sector
- Mental health services
- Older people's services
- Public health services
- Community assets
DEFRA publishes a Statistical Digest of Rural England every three months. This contains latest data on the rural population, economy, accessibility and living (including housing, spending, poverty, education, health and crime).
DEFRA also publishes a Quarterly Rural Economic Bulletin. This is a 'dashboard' of indicators designed to provide evidence on the rural economy.
DEFRA have published Rural economic activity statistics. This includes information on the employment status and working patterns of people living in rural areas in England.