1. POSITION STATEMENT
The question of what is "rural" has
long been an elusive one. The Countryside Agency and its predecessor
body, has used a series of definitions, usually driven more by
the availability of data rather than scientific analysis. We know
we can do better now, with modern information collection methods.
The need for a clearer "pure" definition
of rural is increasing as new ways of gathering databy
ward and by postcodeare beginning to open up real choices.
This will always be difficult. Take, for example, an attempt to
define the rural economy. Is it based on the economic activity
of the people who live in the countrysidewhich might be
a legitimate goal of a programme to tackle rural employment deprivation?
Or is it the sum of economic activity where jobs are plotted over
a defined area of land?
Different bodies have different definitions:
(a) The ONS use a socio-demographic approach
at both the ward and district/unitary level. This divides the
country into "families" that have sub-components eg
prosperous. The rural "coverage" is more limited (narrower)
in both population captured and areas.
(b) Apart from DEFRA who use the Agency's
current definition and have indicated that they would take the
lead from the Agency in any refinement, the other main government
department user of the definition is DTLR. DTLR use a definition
of Urban Areas which basically includes built-up urban land of
greater than 20 ha. and with a minimum population threshold of
1000. The converse of this is that areas excluded from the urban
area boundaries are defined as "rural". In addition,
the Local Government Finance section use a population density
based sparsity definition for the Standard Spending Assessment.
As a general rule, the Agency use two main definitions
depending upon the level of data available the local authority
district (LAD) definition and our rural ward definition.
LAD definition of ruralthis definition
uses 1998 district boundaries and is based on the former RDC district
definition which is itself based on three other lists: NCVO (Redefining
Rural Districts in England), ONS (Classification of Local and
Health Authorities) and the former DETR's additional list of rural
authorities for the 1995 Rural White Paper. This LAD level definition
is often referred to as SOCCODE ie used within State of the Countryside
Reports and for the collation of date for our and the RWP indicators.
The rural ward definition is based on an approach
developed by Chandola et al. at Oxford University for analysis
of the Index of Multiple Deprivation. Using six socio-economic
variables, individual wards within those districts defined as
rural through a modelling exercise based on principal components
of the local authority based definition ie those characteristics
dominant within the 145 districts and unitaries. They are:
economically active people
people who use public transport
people in agriculture, forestry and
people employed in extraction, energy
and water industries
and people ethnically non white.
The variables are found to be robust in differentiating
between urban and rural. At present the Agency uses three other
definitions of rural, depending on the issue being addressed,
the spatial level at which reporting is most useful and the unit
of data which is available:
Non-metropolitan areasthis is used where
data are only available for pre 1998 districts, in which case
those districts in non-metropolitan areas have been defined as
rural districts, and metropolitan districts are consequently defined
Tarling definitionthis allows the differentiation
into five categoriesmetropolitan, urban, coafield, accessible
rural and remote rural. This definition developed for the former
RDC in 1993 was used in the PIU report on rural economies and
provides a broader definition at the "rural" level but
allows a focusing into those categorised as "remoter".
Rural parishesthe Agency also uses a
list of rural parishes based on the former RDC's Rural Services
Survey 1997 approach to defining those parishes with a population
of less the 10,000 as "rural".