Dear Rt Hon Mr Gove,
Clean Air Strategy and implications for Rural Areas
We are the Rural Services Network and we work hard as the national champion for rural services, ensuring that people in rural areas have a strong voice.
We are writing to you to ask if you would seriously consider the impact that the Clean Air Strategy will have on rural communities and some of our most vulnerable residents. We fully appreciate that the Government is trying to cut the cost of air pollution to society saving significant amounts of money but in order to achieve this, the implications for rural communities need to be considered.
BEIS estimates that approximately 13.9% of households in Great Britain are not connected to mains gas equating to approximately 3.7 Million households. Whilst these households are located in both urban and rural areas, rural households suffer from significant disadvantage in relation to fuel poverty and the impact of fuel poverty can have significant health implications.
Rural homes are being left behind with Energy Efficient policies. As a result of low gas mains connections in rural areas, rural residents often have to rely on oil which is expensive and wood burning stoves and coal to heat their homes to keep the costs down. Restrictions on the sale of wet wood for domestic burning so that it can only be purchased in volumes over a specified cut off point will mean that there may be no cost equivalent alternative for heating their home and rural residents will again suffer increased financial penalties simply because they live in rural areas. The fuel poverty gap in rural areas is double that in urban areas, over £600 compared to £300 in urban areas. Fuel poverty is an endemic problem in rural areas since many rural homes are insufficiently insulated – and this is particularly true in the private rented sector with old housing stock. Banning coal is going to hit the rural poor hardest.
The Independent Review of Rural Proofing led by Lord Cameron of Dillington recommended that ‘Rural proofing must be applied more systematically in departments and described more openly and transparently.’ It is vital that the Clean Air Strategy is considered in the context of rural communities and that adverse impacts on rural residents are mitigated providing them with affordable alternatives to heat their homes.
Rural residents face multiple barriers in terms of access to key services and it is vital that rural interests are considered so that rural communities are not again left disadvantaged.
Councillor Cecilia Motley
Chair of Rural Services Network
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