Defining Rural areas

There are two standard definitions of ‘rural’ which have been developed by Government and are utilised by Government Departments and Public Sector organisations.

The first of these relates to the individual classification of small geographical areas (Outputs Areas – containing approximately 300 people each). This may be used to determine the rurality of individual Output areas as well as being aggregated up to determine that of Lower Super Output Areas, Wards and Local Authorities.

The second definition identifies the rurality of individual Local Authority areas, providing an overarching classification based on the distribution of the population within them.

Rural-Urban Classification of Small Area Geographies

The initial Rural-Urban Classification was developed in 2004 as a joint project between a number of government departments and Birckbeck College. It has subsequently been updated and was re-issued in 2013.

It applies a definition of rurality to individual Output Areas, each of which contain approximately 300 people and serve as the lowest standard geographical scale utilised by the Office for National Statistics. Individual Output Areas are classified along the lines set out in the diagram below:

RUC2011 Typology

Source: (Defra 2013)

Detail on the current definition, including links to the methodology and data is available here: Rural-Urban Classification.

A leaflet has also been developed by Defra which provides a useful guide to this definition and is available here.

Rural-Urban Classification of Local Authority Districts in England

The Local Authority Classification developed in parallel with the small area definition outlined above, places all Local Authority areas in England into one of six categories, three of which are urban, one is an urban/rural hybrid and two are rural. As illustrated in the diagram below, this method rates each area based on the distribution of the population within it.

Local Authority areas classified as ‘Mainly rural’ if they have 80% or more of their population living in areas defined as rural, with those where 50-79% of the population live in rural areas being classified as ‘Largely rural’.

Rural Urban Classification for Local Authority Districts in England Diagram1

Source: (Defra 2013)

To find out how each Local Authority area is classified, please click here.

A leaflet has been developed by Defra which provides a useful guide to this definition and is available here. It is important to note that where used in isolation this classification only provides a basic overview of the nature of a local authority area, it does not provide any insight into the distribution or make-up of rural areas within it.

Do I live in a rural area?

If you wish to find out whether you live in an area defined as ‘rural’ using this definition then please click on the link below and enter your Post Code or address:

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