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[ Index ]

Developing rural services



Similarly to employment and the creation of activities, local services are today an essential factor for maintaining people in rural areas. Furthermore, services also generate new forms of solidarity and social cohesion.

The introduction, upkeep and renewal of local services in low population density rural areas makes it necessary to search for appropriate solutions.

The problem of organising services is prevalent, be that in rural areas situated far from towns or the urban hinterland, but the possible solutions vary. The solutions may require the provision of supplementary services or an amalgamation with the services supplied in urban areas or in the different rural areas.

Local services should be adapted to the new needs that arise as a result of changing consumer lifestyles, particularly in terms of quality and the specific categories of clientele such as the elderly, commuters, young couples, etc.

The changes are related to new functions of rural areas e.g. resettlement services, the setting up of decentralised services by large companies, exploitation of the natural habitat, development of sporting and leisure facilities, etc.

These different possibilities place local services at the centre of a strategic reflection that concerns each area according to the sector that the area aims to develop in the future.

The reflection exercise concerns local authorities, private and not- for-profit bodies as well as the service users.

In facing these challenges, this document proposes:

    a) a general analysis of the problem

    This first part of this document aims to:

    • define the ground covered by the services sector and its general characteristics in the rural areas (section 1.1);
    • analyse the new demographic, institutional, technological and economic situations and the ensuing possibilities (section 1.2);
    • highlight the leverage effect that local services can have on rural development (section 1.3);

    b) methodological elements for implementing local services

    Support for the upkeep or creation of services in rural areas is often carried out in a sectoral fashion as part of a specific policy. The approach put forward here starts from an area-based approach where local services form part of a overall local development strategy. The second part of this document focuses on several stages, i.e.:

    • analysis of the gaps between supply and demand (section 2.1);
    • adjustment of the supply to the demand (section 2.2);
    • proposals for reflection on the role of LEADER groups in the approach put forward (section 2.3);

    c) examples of tools for the different phases, i.e. identification, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of local services

    In this part of the document, five tools are proposed with a view to contributing towards:

    • turning an analysis of rural services into an “animation” tool (tool sheet 1);
    • taking stock of available resources (tool sheet 2);
    • fine tuning the improvement of services (tool sheet 3);
    • evaluating the quality of services (tool sheet 4);
    • setting up training programmes to enhance quality (tool sheet 5).

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