Rural communities are being left behind by public-private business groups, a new survey suggests.

The results of the survey, released by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), showed that nearly two-thirds of respondents perceived local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) as having a negative impact on issues affecting the countryside.

LEPs are voluntary partnerships between local businesses and business groups and the government, via the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and are tasked with boosting enterprise, growth, jobs and infrastructure within their respective areas.

But some 60 per cent of respondents to the CPRE's survey argued that LEPs were neglecting rural communities, and entrenching divisions between regions by investing disproportionally in areas that were already economically buoyant, rather than focusing on more deprived areas in need of a greater boost.

One of the issues highlighted by the survey was LEPs' perceived failure to support the building of more affordable housing in rural areas, which have seen major decreases in working-age populations over the last few decades. Only 21 per cent of respondents said LEPs were doing enough to support countryside affordable housing, an issue especially pertinent to rural North and West Dorset, which were last year found to be among the country's least affordable districts - with average house prices reaching nine times the average salary.

LEPs were furthermore perceived as failing to do enough to support regeneration, transport, broadband connectivity and support for new entrants into farming. Respondents also criticised what they saw as LEPs' lack of engagement, both with rural communities and the general public.

CPRE's Paul Miner said that LEPs needed to be more sensitive to the needs of rural communities and businesses.

"Our local groups are telling us that too often LEPs are remote, back developments that will happen anyway, and are not doing enough to support rural regeneration," Mr Miner argued. "Rural businesses, including small farms, account for almost a quarter of all registered businesses in England – their importance to our economy cannot be ignored any longer.

"The imbalance of investment between rural and urban areas is a real threat to growth in these communities, and will lead to our precious countryside becoming increasingly neglected in the future."

However, a spokesman for Dorset LEP insisted the group was working hard to make conditions better in the area's abundant rural districts.

"Dorset LEP is pleased to say that we are working hard with a number of other LEPs across the South West to boost rural productivity," the spokesman said, pointing to a productivity report released last October in conjunction with LEPs from nearby counties.

The report highlighted efforts the LEPs were undertaking on behalf of rural communities, including lobbying for better digital access, rural proofing and protection from the effects of Brexit.