By politics.co.uk staff
Young people have to be persuaded to stay in the countryside if the future of rural communities is to be secured, the government's rural advocate has pressed.
Stuart Burgess warns in his report to prime minister Gordon Brown today that challenges with housing, work, transport, training and social exclusion are stopping people living in the countryside.
Concerns about lack of broadband and mobile phone coverage are having a negative impact on businesses as well as young people, the report adds. It says this is hitting recruitment and employment and better access to learning and youth services.
"Without young people to provide a work force, rural economies are unable to fulfil their full potential and rural communities can go into a decline," Dr Burgess warned.
"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 our rural communities at risk. It is essential to break the cycle of low aspirations and, instead, inspire young people to fulfil their potential and play an active role in our society."
His report calls for more flexible planning to create more affordable rural housing, seeks new ways to boost employment in the countryside and wants greater effort from learning institutions to raise young people's aspirations to live in the area where they grow up.
Dr Burgess added: "My personal commitment is to seek ways of increasing the engagement of rural young people with these issues which so clearly affect their futures and find ways of harnessing their enthusiasm and creativity to find imaginative new solutions which will benefit us all."
The economic downturn is causing huge challenges in rural areas, where by June 2009 40% of rural 16- to 24-year-olds were unemployed or economically active.