Population changes in rural areas can have critical effects on the future of villages. As the supply of public services is frequently calculated on a per capita basis, those settlements with less than one hundred permanent residents can be at a disadvantage, at least in the provision of static services such as clinics, educational facilities, child care and services for the elderly. It is clear that the quality of local public services can have an important influence over decisions to remain and yet the per capita basis for needs assessment is arguably a poor measure for determining future supply. Rural populations, especially those that are close to larger settlements or places of outstanding natural beauty, fluctuate dramatically according the seasons, days of the week, weather, school terms, festivals and events, and harvests.
The aim of this research is to test the theory that not only does the size of rural populations deviate significantly from the numbers of permanent residents, but that these external connections represent an important social network resource which needs to be taken into account in calculating future public service provision. The issue of 'rural connexity' has attracted some attention in the literature and amongst policy planners interested in understanding patterns of growth and decline. The research will offer an opportunity to provide original research for inter-disciplinary debates addressing the implications of demographic changes for development.