Rural communities in Cumbria feel left behind, says survey

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Rural Cumbria
Rural Cumbria

Cumbria's rural communities feel they have been left behind when it comes to vital services, according to a survey.

Access to medical services, better transport links and affordable housing were the top priorities in a poll carried out by an organisation championing community and rural issues.

The findings of ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) says technology could help rural areas become thriving and sustainable.

This issue, together with a plea for more village shops, also scored highly in the survey, which will provide the focus for discussions about making things better.

ACT's chief executive, Lorrainne Smyth (CORR), said on the whole, from the 1,000 responses so far, people were prioritising the services they considered most important.

"This is sometimes prefaced by the remark - we don't have that here and we need it," said Ms Smyth.

"But for Brampton, Wigton, Sedberdh and Grange it was more a case of we have a good service here, we don't want to lose it.

"Generally with medical services people are talking about GPs.

"The transport comments are almost 100 per cent 'we need improvements' - and some of that is in order to access medical services," she added.

The survey asked people to pick three services, from a list of eight, that are most important to rural life.

It then asked them to identify what would improve life in rural Cumbria.

Ms Smyth added: "This survey is the start of a process where, once the top issues are identified, we will do more work to look at the solutions - which will be predominantly local rather than countywide, but may relate to policy issues - such as the integration of the transport offers across the county."

The survey will feed into first discussions of the Cumbria Rural Panel, which is part-funded by the county council and looks at countryside issues.

Jim Webster, chair of the Rural Panel and a trustee of ACT, said members had spoken to people from across the county in streets, events and shows.

"A group of four young lads I spoke to at an agricultural show said that good broadband was vital for them, along with better transport services and access to affordable housing.

"In the more rural locations the need for a village shop and affordable heating has been a priority," added Mr Webster.

The Rural Panel will hold discussions and produce guidance to assist communities and agencies to address the issues discussed.

The results from this first survey will be shared at ACT's annual general meeting on September 8 at Sedbergh People's Hall.

The Rural Panel will then investigate the top issue and produce guidance and an informed plan to address the issue.

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