WHAT: Against a backdrop of urbanisation and suburbanization trends in European countries, town-centres of rural towns and villages were degrading with buildings being left vacant and property owners struggling to finance essential renovations. The relocation of citizens to rural areas during the COVID-19 pandemic, and an increased awareness of and interest in the rural way of life, has driven national governments to launch new plans to revitalise rural towns and villages. In Japan, an urban exodus of remote workers in their 20s and 30s has resulted in the country’s newly elected Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, making the revitalisation of Japan’s countryside a key goal for his time in office. Similarly, the Irish government plans to create 400 remote working hubs in derelict rural buildings, as part of a five-year rural development policy. “As we recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unparalleled opportunity now exists to realize the objectives of achieving balanced regional and rural development,” declared Ireland’s Rural and Community Development Minister.
SO WHAT: These ambitious plans not only acknowledge the renewed interest in rural places and spaces, but also the untapped potentials of their built environment for accommodating new forms of living, working, and creating. The challenge for rural municipalities will then not only by to attract remote workers, but also to create conditions allowing them to add value and contribute to the local community and its development.