Bridgnorth to be focal point of government-funded research project into rural communities

Bridgnorth High Street and Bridgnorth Town Hall
Bridgnorth High Street and Bridgnorth Town Hall

The universities of Newcastle and Gloucestershire have been commissioned by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Power to Change to undertake a project on rural community development.

The aim of the study is to explore what it is like to live in a rural community such as Bridgnorth and create a roadmap for development.

The project is seeking to gain a detailed understanding of the day-to-day experiences of people living and working in rural communities.

It aims to understand people’s hopes and fears for the future, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The project will use numerous methodologies, including an expert panel, a residents’ telephone survey, a business survey, public and third sector interviews, community workshops and community visits/observations. This will enable researchers to understand some of the key issues and policy priorities for the different areas.

Dr Paul Cowie, research fellow from the Centre for Rural Economy, said: “The work is a really exciting opportunity to understand what issues our rural communities are facing.

“This is even more important as rural communities and their businesses seek to deal with impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While we know rural communities face a number of common challenges, there are also issues that may be specific to particular rural communities. What might be seen as a key issue for Keswick and its residents, might be very different to what residents in Bridgnorth might be concerned about.

“By deploying a range of methods, we hope to be able to try to understand these differences and ultimately inform and improve government policy and its impacts on rural communities and businesses.”

A key output of the work will be a roadmap of practical, action-based steps based on each community’s vision for development.

“We are committed to giving something back to the communities, businesses and public sector organisations in recognition of their involvement in the research” said Dr John Powell, senior research fellow at the University of Gloucestershire.

“The roadmaps will provide guidance of next steps and actions that each community can take to achieve its shared vision.”

Other locations being studied include Pershore in Worcestershire, Barnard Castle in County Durham, Minehead in Somerset, Keswick in Cumbria, Alnwick in Northumberland, Thrapston in Northamptonshire and Shildon in County Durham.