Don't be green about the country


Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

More and more families are turning their backs on urban life and opting for the countryside. Miles Brignall looks at the attractions, and the pitfalls, of leaving town

Saturday June 26, 2004
The Guardian

Townies desperate to get out of the concrete jungle are flocking to the countryside in record numbers. Attracted by healthier lifestyles and the chance to get closer to nature, 115,000 people left England's urban areas last year in search of a better life, according to the Countryside Agency, which has published its annual state of the countryside report.
But behind the fairytale image of rose-covered cottages an alternative picture has emerged. In many cases, urban dwellers are swapping one set of problems for another. Only some areas are expanding, and spending on the rural infrastructure has often failed to keep pace with the demands placed upon it. Many services are in decline, and often the cost of living is much higher than urban areas.
Looking at the report - entitled State of the Countryside 2004 - it would be easy to conclude that every rural area across England is besieged by townies, but that simply isn't the case. The overwhelming majority of 115,000 who moved last year escaped the south-east into the south-west.
The figures show that there was a net loss of 106,700 from the south-east (including London) which accounts for 81% of people leaving urban areas. While some moved into nearby countryside, the south-west was by far the biggest recipient of disaffected urbanites. It is a similar picture, albeit on a smaller scale, in the east of England and the east Midlands.
In contrast, rural areas in the north-east saw little net migration - the report says just 800 people jumped from town to country. Rural areas across the north saw generally low levels of growth. Urban areas in the south-west and east Midlands were the only built up areas to welcome new arrivals.
While there are plenty of good reasons to move to the countryside, those chasing the good life tend to pay a price in terms of having less disposable income, and putting up with services in decline.
The report shows that England's rural population has risen 13.7% since 1981, while the number of people living in urban areas rose just 3%. One problem is that spending on services has failed to match the rise in country residents. The Countryside Agency has been monitoring access to 10 key services since 1999, and its report concludes that six out of the 10 saw a slight decline over the past 12 months.
Access to post offices is a good example. In 2000, 97% of those in rural areas lived within 2kms of post office - by 2003 that figure had dropped to 91%. Similarly, access to schools, GPs' surgeries and banks has fallen very slightly.
However, these look like a minor inconvenience when compared to housing issues. Since May 2002, mid-priced houses have been rising much faster in rural areas than in urban ones. One result is that country dwellers spending more than half their income on their mortgage has risen to 37%. In urban areas this figure is 26%.
One thing contributing to this problem is the second home phenomenon. More than 64% of all second homes in England are in rural areas, and while second homes are not a huge problem nationally (they make up around 2.5% of the national housing stock) they are a big factor in certain areas. Second homes account for nearly a quarter of all homes on the Isles of Scilly, and 14% in Berwick-upon-Tweed. South Hams, North Corn wall, the Lake District and Scarborough are all areas in which second homes make up near to or above 10% of the housing stock. The CA says the reduction of the discount in council tax from 50% to 10% for second homes will allow better monitoring of their impact, while improving local council finances.
If you are starting to reconsider that rose-covered cottage in the country, there are a few more facts that you might want to consider.
Rural communities may enjoy uncongested roads, but they spend a lot more time in the car, and pay considerably more for the privilege. Residents of the countryside drive 2,600 miles more a year the their urban counterparts, and spend an extra £13.63 per week on transport -transport accounts for a higher proportion of the household budget.
And the extra costs don't end there. Country dwellers pay significantly higher domestic fuel bills, and are also less likely to have access to childcare facilities - which in turn has an impact on parent's ability to return to work.
None of this would matter, of course, if wages were higher but, again, the opposite is true. Rural earnings have risen faster than in urban areas over the past four years but they still lag behind. There are big regional differences, but in the south- west (where most people head) the pay difference is 12.4% in favour of those working in urban locations. The UK average difference is 8.9%.
Education is another area to consider. Pupils doing GCSEs do better in rural areas, but the number of primary schools that have either closed or are threatened with closure is on the rise again after a lull since 1998.
Then there's your health to consider. Overall the report says rural people live healthier lives, but they also face bigger problems when things go wrong. Ambulance waiting times are predictably longer, but there are also other factors. Access to sophisticated health care often takes longer.
Lastly, overall health may be better, but mental health problems are more prevalent in the countryside - suicide rates are significantly higher, although this probably says more about the state of farming than anything else.

albeit – aczkolwiek
besieged – oblegany
concrete – beton, betonowy
counterpart – odpowiednik
to be in decline – podupadać
demands - wymagania
disposable income – dochód netto
dweller – miszkaniec
to emerge – wyłaniać się
fairytale image – bajkowy obraz
to flock to – podążać tłumnie
GCSE – General Certificate of Secondary Education, system egzaminów w średnim szkolnictwie brytyjskim
inconvenience – niedogodność
to keep pace – dotrzymywać kroku
to lag behind – pozostawać w tyle
lull – okres ciszy
mortgage – kredyt hipoteczny
to opt – optować, wybierać
overwhelming majority – przeważająca większość
pitfall – pułapka
prevalent – przeważający
to put up with – znosić coś
recipient – odbiorca
rural area – obszar wiejski
Sophisticated – wyszukany
Townies – mieszczuchy
uncongested – nie zatłoczony
urban life – życie miejskie


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