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Developing rural services
|A different sector, a different approach|
|Type of sector||Market||Non-market (non-profit making)||Market with public intervention in fixing prices and modes|
|Evolution in the supply||according to the financial solvency of demand||according to a protected demand||according to the availability of resources to be distributed or managed for the collective well-being|
|Minimum threshold||financial profit threshold||decided on by public authorities||decided on by public authorities or depending on the volunteer resources available|
Order of priority in attracting facilities,
shops and services in France
55 facilities, shops and services are classified between 1 (least frequent/widest covered area) and 9 (most frequent/smallest covered area).
market town centre
minimum social life services
= 7 facilities/services
Source: INSEE and the Ministry of Agriculture (France) - Inventory conducted in 1988 at the district level (cited by Bernard Leurquin in “La France et la politique du Pays”, Syros/CNFPT, Paris, 1997)
1.1.2 The specific feature of rural areas with regard to services
As a result of the low levels and scattered nature of the population, services in rural areas are faced with a certain number of difficulties that are particular to rural areas.
Certain difficulties concern the service users and are relative to:
Other difficulties are related to the suppliers of services and are linked to:
126.96.36.199 The difficulties concerning the consumers
The proximity of a service in rural areas is, above all, linked to how frequently it is used, i.e. on a daily, one-off or exceptional basis. People in rural areas are inclined to travel longer distances for exceptional or higher quality services. In France, for example, it is estimated that for services used everyday, consumers travel on average within a 20 minute radius, whereas for exceptional services, consumers are willing to make a journey of about one hour.
In France, a certain order of priority given to facilities is noticeable with regard to the type of service and frequency of use, as the table below demonstrates. The most often used services manage to sustain themselves in the most isolated areas, whereas the least frequently used services have to be located in more urbanised areas in order to be viable. In this logic, the rural areas are dependent on urban centres. However, for certain services, other solutions can be envisaged as we shall see in the next chapters of this guide.
The problem of accessibility in rural areas is even greater than that of proximity.
In some cases, it occurs in terms of transport facilities by which consumers can travel to service centres. From this point of view, public transport is an essential basic service. When transport facilities are not available, the only possible alternative is privately owned transport, a means that is not accessible to all groups of the population.
In other cases, accessibility is realised through home delivery services, which entail extra costs in terms of investment for the equipment used and running and maintenance. This is the case with the supply of electricity, water and gas, post office services, telephone services, meals-on-wheels, home medical care, etc.
Other services needed to ensure accessibility are information and communication. Through these, it is possible to find and access a service; to contact an emergency help service (by telephone or the Internet) or quickly obtain advice or information that is needed immediately.
Transport facilities for delivering services and means of communication make it possible to push the limits of accessibility beyond proximity, that is, to make a service accessible even if the point of supply is not situated nearby.
188.8.131.52 Difficulties encountered by suppliers
a) Frequency of use
The concentration of people in towns guarantees the services installed in urban areas a certain regularity in the flow of clients, thus facilitating return on investment both in terms of materials and human resources.
In rural areas on the contrary, due to the low population density, services are confronted with irregular demand and must, therefore, find other ways of operating to compensate for this disadvantage, such as grouping services together or providing more than one type of service.
Another way of overcoming this difficulty would be to increase the number of clients in order to attain a sufficient level of demand to ensure the service’s viability.
For instance, for a service delivering cooked meals at home to be viable, it needs to produce a certain number of meals per day, which in the rural areas requires a good distribution network. This requirement can be met by supplying several types of clients e.g. school canteens, meals delivered to the homes of the elderly, etc.
The remoteness of certain services may cause problems in terms of securing and supplying a service. A small shop in a village can, for instance, encounter difficulties in stocking certain products or goods.
c) Competition from urban services and the cost
Transport and communication put services in rural areas in competition with urban services. Competition is heightened by the fact that services in urban centres benefit from comparative advantages linked to the concentration of consumers. Moreover, commercial urban services in particular attract customers more easily because they are grouped together, function on a daily basis and are wider in the range of services on offer.
This general trend compels local authorities to reflect on policies that can alleviate the problems. One of the solutions that could be investigated is the supply of rural services that are at least of an equivalent quality to that of urban services.
In the small rural municipality of Castel San Pietro (Emilia-Romagna, Italy), the only existing school was insufficiently equipped in comparison with the schools situated on the outskirts of the nearest town. The parents gradually deserted the local school and enrolled their children in the towns schools in spite of the distance. With the support of the district authorities, the local school was restored and re-equipped. It has progressively become more popular and is now attracting not only the local village children but also the children living in some neighbourhoods close to Castel San Pietro.
Attractive towns and market towns in the county of Aude (Languedoc-
A line links each district to the frequently visited town
Source: Inventaire Communal 1988
IGN - INSEE - SCEES - 1988