A WALES-wide study of rural communities, which included two Powys villages, has raised concerns that rural areas are becoming unsustainable.

The study was conducted by a team at Cardiff University for the Wales Rural Observatory (WRO), and included the ‘deep rural’ communities of Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa in North Powys, Llangammarch Wells in South Powys, Aberdaron in Gwynedd, and Clydau in North Pembrokeshire.

One of the main findings of the study was that rural areas are in decline and becoming unsustainable due to lack of social life and population and that the government appeared to “lack the will” to address the problem.

There were four phases of the research – household surveys, face-to-face interviews, focus groups with young people and questionnaires for service providers. There was general consensus between both older members of the community and those involved in the youth focus groups that the population of the areas were ageing and would continue to do so.

But there was also further concern that some older people were even being discouraged from living in the areas due to the lack of services - particularly in terms of healthcare.

Among the suggestions from residents of how to reverse the current trend were ‘rural relief’ with regards to fuel, food, vehicle excise duty and council tax, a rethink of government budgets to reflect the particular characteristics of rural areas, having more local offices rather than centralising service administration in urban areas, having dedicated meeting places for young people and an increase in after school activities, and better access to transport and broadband services.

Some comments from Powys residents: 
*  “You have to have transport. My daughter is 15. It is very, very difficult for her. She works, I have to take her. She goes singing she is in a choir. I am constantly on the road. There are no public services.” – female, 25-44, Llangammarch Wells.

*  “The sort of problem that there is in these parts of Wales – young people, unless they’re very lucky to be farmers’ sons or daughters then most of them have to go out of the area to find work, and a lot of the time to outside Wales.” – male, 65+, Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa.

*  “One thing that really frustrates me or annoys me is the fact that we tend to pay a premium here for what I would regard as basic necessities like motor fuel, for example. It will be 4p or 5p a litre cheaper in Swansea than around here and that really does annoy me because I think things like that particularly in an area like this where car ownership is essential. It is not a luxury.” – female 45-64, Llangammarch Wells.

* “Our nearest hospital is in Shrewsbury which is over the border. I might have to have a hip operation and for that I’d have to go to Telford, so I’d urge the Assembly to consider that we need a hospital in Montgomeryshire to provide these important operations.” – female, 65+, Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa.

*  “It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve got a degree or anything, I mean you have got to get out of the village so they tend to go away and they stay away; they don’t come back. There is nothing for them, there is no work for them.” – male, 65+, Llangammarch Wells.