ARCHIVE: Rural Definition and Local Authority Classification

Introduction

Please read first: Rural statistics guidance notes [PDF 72KB] [Updated March 2009]

Summaries: Below are brief summaries of the Rural Definition and LA classification.

Documents: For more information and a background to both these and the new Census Output Areas, please refer to the following documents:

Other geographies

Maps:

  • For Maps of the Rural Definitions and Classifications, refer to our Rural Atlas
  • (All maps are in .jpg format).

Update: changes to the LA classification

In April 2009 significant changes in the structure of local government came into force. These changes, especially the creation of 9 new unitary authorities, have necessitated an update to the Local Authority Classification. The Government Statistical Service Regional and Geography Group (GSSRG) commissioned a working group to look at this issue, and the outcome of this working group is a revised LA Classification. Detailed information about the changes can be found here, with guidance on how to use the Definition and Classification here.

The Rural Definition - Summary

The Rural Definition was introduced in 2004 as a joint project between the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC - formerly the Countryside Agency), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and the Welsh Assembly. It was delivered by the Rural Evidence Research Centre at Birkbeck College (RERC).

A) This new 'spectrum', or graded system, replaces the earlier Oxford/CA binary ward classification and adopts a settlement-based approach.

B) It is available for England and Wales at:

  • Census Output Area (COA or OA)
  • Census Super Output Area (CSOA or SOA)
  • Ward

    [OAs consist of ~125 households and have a population of ~300. SOAs are built of OAs, typically 5, and so contain ~625 households or a mean population of ~1500. OAs therefore vary greatly in size and shape between urban and rural regions, for example a single tower block may consist of more than one OA, whereas a large area of remote moorland may be covered by a single OA.]
    More information on OAs and SOAs.

C) Output areas are classified by morphology and context:

  • Morphology
    • Urban (over 10,000)
    • Rural town
    • Village
    • Dispersed (hamlets and isolated dwellings)
  • And context
    • Sparse
    • Less sparse

    This gives 8 Urban/Rural Classification (1 urban and 6 rural):

    1. Urban (Sparse)
    2. Urban (Less Sparse)
    3. Town (Less Sparse)
    4. Town (Sparse)
    5. Village (Less Sparse)
    6. Village (Sparse)
    7. Dispersed (Less Sparse)
    8. Dispersed (Sparse)
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The LA Classification - Summary

The LA Classification was introduced in 2005 as a Defra initiative and was delivered by the Rural Evidence Research Centre at Birkbeck College (RERC).

A) Many Statistics are only available at Local Authority level. In order to differentiate between Rural and Urban for these statistics it was necessary to classify the LAs based on their rurality. The same methodology was then applied to Primary Care Trusts (PCT).

B) The new LA Classification is again a 'spectrum', or graded system, and replaces the earlier Tarling binary LA classification, and again it is based on settlement type.

The new LA Classification gives 6 Urban/Rural Classifications:

  1. Major Urban
  2. Large Urban
  3. Other Urban
  4. Significant Rural
  5. Rural-50
  6. Rural-80

These are defined as follows:

  1. Major Urban: districts with either 100,000 people or 50 percent of their population in urban areas with a population of more than 750,000.
  2. Large Urban: districts with either 50,000 people or 50 percent of their population in one of 17 urban areas with a population between 250,000 and 750,000.
  3. Other Urban: districts with fewer than 37,000 people or less than 26 percent of their population in rural settlements and larger market towns.
  4. Significant Rural: districts with more than 37,000 people or more than 26 percent of their population in rural settlements and larger market towns.
  5. Rural-50: districts with at least 50 percent but less than 80 percent of their population in rural settlements and larger market towns.
  6. Rural-80: districts with at least 80 percent of their population in rural settlements and larger market towns.

Page last modified: 28 July, 2010
Page published: 10 December, 2002