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Place matters: How communities in England are changing

31 Jan 2018

A report by Localis for Local Trust

As the 2020s approach, England is in a state of flux. The country is experiencing a series of major changes in its political and economic model. Too often, questions of national significance and their impact on places and people – a future migration policy, mismatches in people’s education and the skills a modern economy demands, how to care for an ageing population – are overlooked or ignored. Localis has produced this research to begin to fill this gap.

The research uses data sets to show how communities are changing on a number of the most important indicators of vitality and vibrancy. It highlights where and how change is being, and will be, felt most acutely. It outlines the factors likely to impact these trends in the near future.

Data analysis is provided first by a national picture, and, second, by case studies that are statistically representative of three types of community common across the country: market and new towns, the urban north and rural areas. Detailed in the report are key themes by which these types of community are changing and their main challenges in the coming years. The methodology for creating the three case studies communities and process of data collation is described in the appendix.Not every place in England is included in the case study communities – and othertypologies are worthy of analysis too – but each has a characteristic in common: all are poorly served by policy:

  • Market and new towns: tend to be grouped with shires. Interest in towns is growing, but this has not yet translated into policy.
  • Urban north: cities in the urban north are a focus of policy in recent years, yet the urban north extends beyond them as a relatively densely populated area. As this report shows, communities in the urban north have a number of urgent issues related to deprivation.
  • Rural areas: have no major population hub. They are perennially forgotten, yet are also where the change can be felt most acutely.

The research shows a country where, to quote the Prime Minister’s first speech from Downing Street, the ‘burning injustices’ afflicting society are distributed unevenly across the country. Communities across England are moving in different directions at different, sometimes alarming, speeds. On a number of indicators these gaps in vitality and vibrancy are widening.

Empowered Communities

This report has been researched and authored by Localis, and commissioned by Local Trust, for the Empowered Communities in the 2020s research project. Empowered Communities in the 2020s is a joint research and public engagement project inviting organisations, public services, community groups, and individual citizens to share their visions of how communities can become more empowered. The project asks ‘How can communities become more empowered and vibrant in the 2020s?’ The report will inform the Empowered Communities in the 2020s research but has wider relevance to all of those helping to lead local communities through changing times.