Small societies

I-Hsien Porter

A village shopAn article in The Daily Telegraph argues that rural areas may suffer most from spending cuts. In the countryside people already have to travel further to reach services and shops (Post Offices, doctors), while the cost of transport and petrol is rising to prohibitive levels.

However, rural society may also be the most resilient to cuts in government spending. Determined not to lose vital local services, 241 community owned shops have opened in the past 25 years, most of which are still successfully running. Other communities have taken stakes in laying high speed broadband cables or constructing wind farms.

This is part of the picture of the ‘Big Society’, which Prime Minister David Cameron wants to take up the slack of services previously paid for by government.

In a recent paper in Area, Tracey Hewett and Stephen Fletcher discuss an integrated approach to coastal management, the ‘coastal partnership’, which engages communities in managing their local coastline.

Coastal partnerships seek to integrate different policies and the interests of different stakeholders, by working across different sectors and levels of decision making. Arguably, local people are best placed to inform and implement coastal management options. By focusing on the small scale and the local, coastal partnerships are able to build consensus and empower local stakeholders. This allows locally specific policies to be identified and delivered.

Engaging in local geographies and ‘bottom-up’ approaches to government may prove a productive way of maintaining services and management, even when there is less money available to do so.

The Daily Telegraph (16th August 2010) ‘With no help from the Coalition, country folk are doing it for themselves’

Hewett, T. and Fletcher, S. (2010) ‘The emergence of service-based integrated coastal management in the UK.’ Area 42 (3): 313-327

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