Rother voluntary action

Source: http://www.rother.gov.uk

Rother District is located in the eastern most part of East Sussex. For the greater part, Rother is rural in character, forming the south-eastern part of the High Weald. However, it also embraces low-lying coastal areas at both ends of the District.

Rother District in East Sussex covers nearly 200 square (mostly rural) miles and is home to 32 towns and villages and the main town of Bexhill on sea. The District derives its name from the River Rother, which traverses the northern part of the area to reach the English Channel at Rye.90% of the District is classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it has one of the highest levels of sunshine in the UK.

 Rye

The District envelops (but excludes) Hastings, which is largely contained to the south of the Battle ridge. Bexhill is the principal town and administrative centre and has a population of 41,635 inhabitants (ESCC mid 2006 estimate).

Aside from Hastings, other significant nearby settlements are Eastbourne (12 miles west of Bexhill), Tunbridge Wells (35 miles north of Bexhill). Brighton (32 miles west) and Ashford (36 miles) are further afield, while London is 75 miles to the north. The settlement pattern reflects this spatial variation, with most of the larger settlements on or close to the coast. Bexhill accounts for nearly half of the population (click HERE for more info) with the other, much smaller, historic towns being Battle and Rye.

Population

Some 90,000 live in Rother and are unevenly dispersed around the District. Almost half of the population live in Bexhill (i.e. 41,600 people). The other towns of Battle and Rye (with the contiguous built up parts of Rye Foreign & Playden) are considerably smaller, with populations of some 6,200 and 5,000 respectively. Most of the remainder live in the 32 villages and hamlets across the District.

Their age structure shows a notably higher proportion of elderly compared to county, regional and national averages. This also varies across the District, with the highest proportion of people aged 65+ in Bexhill (35%) and at Fairlight (40%).

Average household income, which is an indicator of spending power, is relatively low in Rother, being below the county average and well below the regional average. While there is a perception of being part of the “wealthy South East” Rother is experiencing increasing social and economic problems with lower than average wages, higher proportions of people living with mental health issues or life limiting illnesses and one of the oldest populations in the UK. The economy is characterised by the almost complete absence of industry with over 95% of local businesses characterised as being micro or small. Deprivation is becoming a major concern with large parts of the District experiencing high levels of fuel poverty and some wards now ranked in the wost 10% in the index of multiple deprivation.

The Government’s most recent (2010) Index of Multiple Deprivation’ (IMD) ranks Rother 132th “worst” of 354 local authority area. In other words, it is a little below the national average. However recent evidence suggests a worsening of the trend and areas experiencing severe deprivation are widening and deepening in the area.

Rother is a relatively safe place to live, with noticeably lower levels of criminal offences than both the region and country as a whole.

Education, skills and employment

Educational achievement, at GCSE level, of local students is relatively high in both East Sussex and regional contexts. However, a lower proportion of people with a degree (17.7%) compared to the south-east region’s average of 21.7% suggests a drift of away from the area. This is also reflected in the types of jobs people do, with fewer than the national average in managerial and professional posts, although higher levels are found in some rural areas, notably those with closer links to Tunbridge Wells and London. Some 23,200 people are employed in Rother.

On the other hand, it compares with a total workforce of 33,800, meaning that there is a net out-flow of commuters. In fact, some 40% of Rother residents work outside the district. The rationale for this is evidenced by the difference between average earnings of residents (£502) and people working in Rother (£411).

Of the jobs in Rother, the most significant sectors are public services, followed by financial and business services and retail/distribution. About 10% of jobs are in manufacturing and 3.3% in agriculture / forestry / fishing. Smaller firms (10 or less employees) predominate, accounting for 89% of business units.Not untypical for a rural area, there are many self-employed people. Unemployment rates (measured by benefit claimants) are currently low, broadly comparable with the wider area.

Housing

The total number of households in Rother is 38,800, giving an average household size of 2.2 persons, notably lower than the region or country. This is attributable to the fact that single person households account for one third of the total.

The proportion is generally higher in coastal parishes. In 2001 the large majority of homes (78%) were owner-occupied, with 10.6% social rented,8.0% private rented and 3.5% other rented. This compares to 79% in 1991. Compared to the region as a whole (74%), it is higher. The District has one of the highest ratios of average house prices to earnings in the South East (ESiF) and has increased over the last 5 years. This fuels the substantial affordable housing need across the District.

Environment

Rother has outstanding environmental qualities in its landscape, wildlife habitats and built heritage. There are ongoing national or international obligations to conserve and enhance these. Furthermore, they are integral to the character of the area. The state of the environment is generally good but there are pressures upon it.

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For more data on Rother click here