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13th July 2010, 1:23pm
Newcomers from city spark resurgence in rural economies
Business plans City dwellers who move to the countryside are having a far more positive impact on rural economies than previously recognised, according to a new study by a University of Lincoln academic.

Rather than simply moving to the countryside to retire, newcomers to rural areas are frequently launching new businesses, creating jobs and trading with existing firms, research by Dr Gary Bosworth suggests.

The post-war pattern of migration away from the UKs big cities towards rural towns and villages is well-documented. The trend, called 'counterurbanisation' by academics and policymakers, is often assumed to have negative consequences for rural communities. The presumption is that new arrivals are generally people of retirement age who force up house prices, place demands on public services and do not contribute significantly to the local economy.

However, Dr Bosworth's research indicates that inward migration from urban areas is in fact sparking a resurgence in the economies of rural areas. He coins the term 'commercial counterurbanisation' to describe the phenomenon where city folk drawn to the countryside by the rural idyll go on to launch their own business ventures, sometimes years after making the move.

Not only do these in-migrant entrepreneurs employ local people and trade with existing local businesses, they also retain networks of non-local contacts which can bring in more business from outside the region.

Dr Bosworth, a Research Fellow in the Lincoln Business School at the University of Lincoln, reanalysed existing data from a survey of more than 1,200 small businesses in the North East of England collected during an earlier study with the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University. He then interviewed 40 rural business owners (16 of them run by local people and the other 24 run by in-migrants) to gain deeper insight into the origin and nature of rural enterprises.

The businesses surveyed spanned a wide range of sectors, including retail, hospitality, business services and manufacturing, alongside more traditional land-based industries.

Dr Bosworth said: "Counterurbanisation, which is the movement of population away from urban areas to rural ones, has traditionally been associated with people of retirement age. However, in my research I found that it is frequently people in their 40s who make this move. Although this does still lead to an ageing population in rural areas, many of these in-migrants are active, healthy, working-age people who make a significant contribution to the local economy. I use the term commercial counterurbanisation to describe this growth of rural economies stimulated by inward migration."

His paper, 'Commercial counterurbanisation in rural economic development', was published in the journal Environment and Planning A 2010, Volume 42.

Dr Bosworth is now planning to carry out a similar survey for rural areas in other parts of England, including the East Midlands.

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