A pioneering commission aiming to reverse the “crisis” facing deeply rural areas will start its investigations today, amid hopes it could help solve issues ranging from access to housing and jobs to population decline.
The chairman of North Yorkshire’s Rural Commission the Very Reverend John Dobson, the Dean of Ripon, said he was optimistic that the wide-ranging eight-month inquiry could identify a number of fresh ideas to bolster communities across the county, which has more small, rural schools than anywhere else in England.
He said: “We are responding to what some people might regard as a crisis. We want to be positive. It is not saying we can click our fingers and perform miracles, but we can listen very carefully to what people say to us and find some underlying causes and therefore come potential solutions.”
The dean was speaking at a launch event for the commission in Hudswell, near Richmond, where the village inn the George and Dragon has been taken over by the community and transformed into a pub, shop and library.
Martin Booth, who helped set up the venture, said while self-help community action could do much to solve rural issues, public bodies such as councils would play a crucial role in providing expert and financial support.
The commission, which will seek evidence from dozens of experts and residents, has been established by North Yorkshire County Council after its leader Councillor Carl Les sought to undertake as thorough investigation of what he describes as “challenges not problems”, facing residents in more isolated areas.
He said the greatest rural challenges included connectivity, such as transport and broadband, and the exodus of young people.
The commission’s monthly hearings will be held behind closed doors, but Rev Dobson said the evidence it collects and findings would be made public next summer.