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Plunkett Foundation hurdles over challenges for rural communities

Two employees at a local rural shop
There are many challenges facing rural communities; from poor internet connection and lack of public transport, to the closure of local amenities which often result in a lack of employment within the community. 

But through the help of charities such as the Plunkett Foundation, we can try and reduce the issues rural communities are facing and tackle the problems head on. After all, who wouldn’t love to walk into a shop or local pub to see a friendly, recognisable face from their community behind the counter?

Here the Plunkett Foundation provide their opinions, hints and tips for rural communities.

Challenges facing rural communities

Living in countryside can be idyllic but also comes with its own unique set of challenges. Rural communities today are facing an overall decline in rural services, including the loss of public transport routes, the closure of local shops, pubs and post offices very often limited digital connectivity. These issues combined can mean that living in a rural community can be an isolating and lonely experience for many.

But national charity, Plunkett Foundation, is at the forefront of working with rural communities to tackle these issues and help create sustainable initiatives that will make rural communities a better place to live. We call these initiatives community businesses. Over the past century, Plunkett has enjoyed working with individuals and groups on a wide range of community businesses, including; pubs, shops, cafes, and lots more.

What are community businesses?

Enterprises that are owned and run democratically by members of the community, on behalf of the community. As well as being an effective mechanism for safeguarding essential services in rural areas, they address a range of issues including isolation, loneliness, wellbeing, employment and training. Community businesses particularly benefit those who are disadvantaged by lack of personal transport, limited physical mobility, and those seeking employment or volunteer opportunities. Most importantly they provide an accessible social hub for every member of the community to meet and talk and not feel alone. Plunket has been working with rural community groups for 100 years to save local assets and services through community ownership. If your local shop or pub is faced with closure, or you feel that your village could benefit from a community business, don’t hesitate to contact Plunkett’s Community Business Team for free help and support.

You can visit the Plunkett website. Or contact Plunkett on: 01993 810730 or info@plunkett. 

Top tips on setting up a community business

Contact Plunkett Foundation as soon as possible

Our advice line can provide information and advice to communities at all stages of their journey setting up or running a community business, and signpost to other relevant organisations and sources of support. 

Hold a public meeting to update community on questionnaire and elect a committee 

Gauge the support and raise awareness of your project. This is an opportunity to explain the concept and options for the project and encourage people to get involved. 

Select a suitable legal structure

Community businesses need to adopt a recognised legal structure in order to trade. Plunkett can advise you on the right type for you.

Work up a business plan

This is a valuable tool for setting out your aims and objectives for your community business, including the social benefits you seek to bring. Plunkett can provide support with business plan templates and through our team of experienced advisers.

Raise required level of finance

As well as engaging your community in local fundraising; you can also look to loans, grants and community share schemes to raise your capital.

Identify and purchase your premises

Community businesses can set up in a range of premises; new build, existing premises, village halls, the local pub, places of worship or even a shipping container! 

Join Plunkett Foundation as a member

We actively encourage the communities we work with to become members. This helps us keep in touch with our groups and gives them continued support to ensure they continue to thrive. 

Comply with the latest regulations and legislation

Ensure your community businesses have all the necessary checks completed, and processes in place. All community businesses must be compliant with all legal requirements and best practice trading processes. 

Open for trading

Celebrate and congratulate everyone involved. Setting up and running a community business is hard work, so reward and recognition is vital – and brings the whole community together!

Additional notes 

  • 1.5 million (16%) people in rural England are in absolute income poverty 1
  • Chronic loneliness increases the risk of developing dementia by 64% 2
  • Loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by 30% 2

Community shops facts and figures 3

  • 372 community shops open and trading
  • 1,380 paid jobs created
  • 10,350 volunteer positions in community shops created
  • £53 million turnover
  • £112,500 donated to community shops

Community pubs facts and figures 4

  • 85 community pubs trading
  • 15,000 community pub shareholders
  • 74% start-up costs sourced within the community
  • 100% survival rate
  • 14 new community pubs opened in 2014


1 State of Rural Services Report - https://www.rsnonline.org.uk/page/publications

2 Campaign to End Loneliness - https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/blog/loneliness-and-dementia/

3 Plunkett Foundation, Community Shops; A Better Form of Business - https://plunkett.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Better-Business-Shops-2018.pdf

4 Plunkett Foundation; Community Shops; A Better Form of Business - https://plunkett.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Better-Business-2018-Pubs.pdf