The Observatory opens the window to a statistical view of rural life. It provides analyses and comment on key service provision and issues affecting rural communities.

Many of the analyses use DEFRA's Rural-Urban Classification of Local Authority Districts and other higher level geographies. In December 2014 this classification was updated from Census 2001 to Census 2011 data, including a new identification of rural hub towns (previously larger market towns).

This process included a renaming of the six classifications, and these new names will be phased into the Observatory work as analyses are updated or created.

Rural-Urban Classification 2011 Rural-Urban Classification 2001
Mainly Rural (rural including hub towns >80%) Rural-80
Largely Rural (rural including hub towns 50-79%) Rural-50
Urban with Significant Rural (rural including hub towns 26-49%) Significant Rural
Urban with City and Town Other Urban
Urban with Minor Conurbation Large Urban
Urban with Major Conurbation Major Urban

Sub Categories

Neighbourhood Planning

A successful neighbourhood plan must be based on evidence and an understanding of the place they relate to. Communities need to gather a range of evidence and local knowledge before writing their plan. We have collated a selection of evidence, which may be useful to communities in starting to shape their evidence base.

View items...

Your Observatory

Providing an area for you to suggest the analyses that are most relevant for your local authority's needs

View items...

Rural Performance Benchmarking

We believe that when benchmarking against other services you should always compare like for like. Delivering a recycling service to an inner city area is significantly different to a sparsely populated area and needs to be benchmarked accordingly.

We provide a service that enables you to benchmark your performance in key areas against other rural authorities and your family authorities.

Family authorities are those with which you share similar characteristics.

We often provide in year analysis which enables you to understand your performance ahead of year end to assess how well you are doing.

We currently provide analysis in 4 areas:

View items...

Local Authority Finance

We provide a range of analysis for local authorities, considering their individual RA position (revenue estimate) and RO position (Revenue Outturn) compared with other authorities and groups of authorities.

To visit our finance section
click here

View items...


The Observatory section on the Economy looks at all elements of the rural economy such as employment, small businesses and wage levels to build a picture of the impact on rural communities.


View items...


Balancing the housing market, improving the quality of housing stock, and enabling the provision of affordable housing are all key issues which concern rural local authorities.  These are often topical issues and the Housing section of the Observatory considers what the data available can tell us about the position in rural communities, and what challenges rural communities might face in the future.

View items...


Both rural and uban environments face similar challenges with issues such as flooding, flytipping however the implications of these issues can be significant in rural areas where the cost of dealing with them is significantly higher per incident.  Delivering waste management services to rural communities also has significant challenges in terms of cost and logistics and analysis on these issues and other environmental concerns are included in this section.

View items...

Health, Wellbeing & Social Services

A civilized society is one in which health and wellbeing are promoted, and care is provided to those requiring help or assistance to live a full and productive life.  The benefits of a healthy community are measurable both in terms of economy and the relative levels of happiness and fulfillment experienced.  Likewise, the negative impact of health inequality is also a measurable factor in the wellbeing of a community.  This section of the Observatory takes a look at the indicators of health, wellbeing, and the functions of social services to provide a perspective on how rural communities fare in these measures.

View items...

Learning, Skills & Education

The mission of the Department for Education is to develop a highly educated society in which opportunity is more equal for children and young people no matter what their background or family cirumstance.  This section of the Observatory investigates whether these opportunities extend to children and young people from rural England.

View items...

Local Services

What makes our rural communities sustainable and vibrant? At the heart of our communities are elements such as access to services, healthcare, education, shops and community facilities.  This section includes analysis in these areas.

View items...

Travel & Transport

Transport, travel and the associated infrastructure required to move about an area are particularly important to those living in rural isolation to access services, education and employment. The Travel and Transport section of the Observatory presents data that shows the reality of rural life and rural service provision.

View items...

Emergency Services (including fire and community safety)

Emergency services provision including fire and rescue services, face particular challenges in their rural communities that can be quite different to their neighbouring urban communities.  This section of the Observatory includes data on these issues and also considers community safety and related issues for rural communities.

View items...

English Indices of Deprivation 2015

The English indices of deprivation 2015 were published in September 2015, and measure the relative deprivation of small areas in England. Details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/english-indices-of-deprivation-2015

Statistics on relative deprivation in England are given below:

View items...

Latest tweets


Unlocking digital potential
A consultation on 'Unlocking Rural Britain's Digital Potential' has been launched. More details here

Site search

Brexit module

For information about the full implications and the repercussions on rural areas click here

BBC Countryfile Magazine

Countryfile magazine
For the latest issue of BBC Countryfile magazine, click here

funding module website

Fairer Funding
For our Fairer Funding campaign information click here


For analysis and comment on key rural services, click here.


Local Authority pages
To access tailored information on your local authority, click here


Parliamentary Group
For the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services, click here.

Our Events

Our Events
For Rural Services Network events and notable dates, click here.

Our Events

Rural studies archive
For our Commission for Rural Communities archive, click here.