Wales

Rural future: 'Young need jobs and homes'

Emily
Image caption Stay or go? Living in rural parts of Wales can be a tough choice for young people like Emily

Emily is 15, loves her home in rural Carmarthenshire but is worried about her future prospects.

Encouraging young people like her to stay - or return - was one of the drivers behind a council task force aimed at regenerating the county.

It has made 50 recommendations - leading to claims the Welsh Government has made a disappointing lack of progress on the issue.

But ministers insist they are committed to protecting rural interests in Wales.

"I've lived in rural Wales my entire life. I love the countryside - it's part of who I am," said Emily.

"Transport is a bit difficult - there's not many trains going and the bus routes are very limited too."

She helps out at her parents' key-cutting business, and currently has no plans to leave.

But young people do leave Carmarthenshire, for education or work.

Carreg Cennen Castle, near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire
Getty Images
CARMARTHENSHIRE

in figures

  • 186,500residents in 2017 - 6% of the Welsh population

  • 61%live in rural wards - higher than Welsh average of 33%

  • 9.4% are young people - lower than Welsh average of 11.3%

  • 23.3% are over 65 - higher than Welsh average of 20.6%

Source: Carmarthenshire council

Councillor Cefin Campbell is responsible for communities and rural affairs in Carmarthenshire.

He said in order to increase the proportion of younger people in the area, there needed to be jobs and homes for them.

Image caption 'Under pressure' - rural communities need more help says Cefin Campbell

"Rural Carmarthenshire, like all parts of rural Wales, is facing enormous pressures," he argued.

"The language is under threat, and also the bedrock of these communities in terms of agriculture is under pressure.

"There are so many facets... I'm hoping that this strategy will provide some sort of blueprint that other local authorities can look at."

The task force spent two years consulting communities across the county and the council's executive board is expected to adopt the plan later on Monday.

Recommendations include:

  • Using vacant or disused buildings on agricultural land and within rural towns and villages for new start-up businesses or office space
  • Looking into the feasibility of creating new smallholdings in rural areas
  • More investment in electric charging points across the county, promoting car club schemes and lobbying government for long-term funding for the Bwcabus project
  • Working with partners to develop community energy schemes
  • Individual action plans for 10 rural towns - Llandovery, St Clears, Whitland, Newcastle Emlyn, Laugharne, Cwmamman, Llanybydder, Kidwelly, Llandeilo and Cross Hands

The Mid and West Wales assembly member and minister Eluned Morgan called for an economic plan for rural Wales back in February 2017 - similar to those in place for the city regions of Cardiff and Swansea.

She claimed it was a "critical time" for rural areas given the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kidwelly, one of the towns that has been part of the task group's focus

But the rural task force group at the Plaid Cymru-led Carmarthenshire council said there had been a "lack of progress in further developing the suggestions put forward", describing the situation as "disappointing".

Their report added: "In the absence of a national drive on this, the task group believe that the council should lead on this work in Carmarthenshire."

Responding, the Welsh Government said it wanted "all parts of Wales to benefit from economic growth".

"We are committed to helping rural businesses diversify and take full advantage of supply chains, and ensure rural interests are protected and feature strongly as Wales prepares for a future outside the EU," said an official.

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