With much of Canterbury South consisting of villages, woodland and farmland, Mike Sole sets out some of the Liberal Democrat vision for rural areas and raises a pint to the village pub.

As a former parish councillor who works closely with the parishes in the Nailbourne Ward that I represent on Canterbury City Council, I want to help communities become empowered to build strong and thriving local economies.

People in rural areas need to be able to work and live locally, to have access to a well-funded and integrated transport network and to have equal access to the technology that is shaping 21st century life.

I believe that all communities should have the opportunity to flourish and people should have access to similar opportunities and services regardless of the type of community in which they live. However, national policy decisions tend to be made with urban communities in mind and they rarely benefit rural communities as they should. Spending decisions on infrastructure, housing, transport services among other things have systematically failed to properly consider the needs and potential of rural communities and this has led to service provision and infrastructure in these areas falling behind urban communities. I do not think that people living in rural communities should have to accept less because of where they live.

Two specific examples are rural travel and the village pub.

Travelling around rural areas remains a challenge, with less than half of rural premises having access to public transport and car journeys remaining the primary means of transport. This poses a particular issue to children, young adults, and adults who are unable to drive. Lack of transport is also a particular challenge to businesses based in the countryside, who may struggle to attract clients and workers, as well as face problems distributing goods. We need a better rural bus service with timetables that work for local residents.

We have unfortunately lost a number of local pubs in the area including The Bull in Adisham. The Hop Pocket in Bossingham, The Unicorn in Bekesbourne and The Chequers on Stone Street. It has been incredible tough during the last year for everyone involved in the hospitality sector. Pubs can play an important role in rural communities. They are, though, always under threat from increasing business rates and alcohol prices as well as, in some areas, dwindling communities leading to a reduction in the number of residents with sufficient disposable income to make regular visits. We should promote the development of service hubs around pubs where that is an appropriate solution, encouraging greater use of pubs, recognise their role as key parts of rural communities and promote engagement with parishes. A good example of this is the part-time Post Office that operates from the Red Lion in Bridge.

As a Kent County Councillor I will work to improve and enhance the communities that we live in, and fight for our fair share of services and funding.

Posted by Mike Sole

Mike Sole is the councillor for Nailbourne Ward. He works as an accountant and lives with his wife just outside Canterbury near Bridge.

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