THE RURAL population grows relatively faster than the urban population, according to the Countryside Agency‘s “State of the Countryside 2004” report.

Between 1981 and 2002 the annual growth in rural areas was on average more than 81,000 (0.7%) against 48,000 (0.1%) in urban areas.

Relatively speaking, the rural growth was seven times faster than growth in the cities.

Net migration from urban to rural districts is estimated at 115,000 people in the 12 months to June 2002.

CA chair Pam Warhurst said that people move to the countryside because of the quality of life there.

According to the report country living means a longer life. On average both sexes enjoy an 18-month longer lifespan than their urban counterparts.

But she pointed out that people exercising their choice to go rural may inadvertently reduce the choices of the less well-off in rural areas.

The most damaging effect of the migration is the increase in house prices, which makes homes less affordable for local families, and homelessness is an increasing problem in rural areas.

On the other hand, incomers generate more jobs in rural areas, both for themselves and the local population.

The CA report shows that by the end of 2002, agriculture and fishing constituted 13% of the number of businesses in rural areas.

During 2002, agriculture and fishing lost 2,560 businesses, equivalent to 3.4% of the total number in these sectors.