The future of the countryside is at risk unless the government finds ways to help young people remain in rural areas, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been warned.
Lack of affordable housing, work and transport means rural communities are in jeopardy as young people are forced to move away from the countryside.
Dr Stuart Burgess, the government’s rural advocate, said poor broadband internet and mobile phone coverage have also left the next generation of farmers and rural workers socially excluded.
In a report delivered to Downing Street on Thursday (4 March), Dr Burgess warns the government needs to act urgently to stop more young people quitting the countryside.
“Without young people to provide a workforce, rural economies are unable to fulfil their full potential,” he added.
His warning came as the Commission for Rural Communities published its State of the Countryside update, which sets out recommendations for improving housing, employment and skills and communication.
The update says local authorities need to review their housing and planning policies to meet rural needs, while schemes needed to be developed to offer apprenticeships and other training to young people in villages and hamlets.
It also says local authorities needed to think about transport systems to make sure they met the needs of rural communities, while government should put rural areas at the front of its internet access delivery plans.
Dr Burgess, who is also chairman of CRC, said: “My clear message is that challenges for rural young people need addressing positively and urgently and that failure to act will put the future viability of out rural communities at risk.
“It is essential to break the cycle of low aspirations and instead inspire young people to fulfil their potential.”
Farming skills council Lantra has previously warned of the dangers of a “skills crisis” and failure to attract young people to rural employment.
It launched a campaign last year to raise awareness of the importance of jobs in agriculture after it claimed farming would be extinct by 2035 unless the industry’s skills shortage was addressed.