A Rural Market Town grouping of the RSN

Why a rural/market town grouping?
  • The Rural Services Network are looking to group together rural Towns across England which are the meeting place or services centre for their adjacent rural areas by creating a Rural/Market Town Group. We believe there are approaching 1,000 such rural towns across England.
  • Frequently these towns are described as Market Towns because of their history, although not all have had or once held a physical livestock or produce market or have any previous royal charter. Although many of these towns are relatively small they are often key social/service centres for their surrounding  rural areas. They are really important in their role which is often based on local geography and is often historic.
  • These communities are a massively significant element of local rural life. We employ the word ‘Market’ because it signifies the gravitas of their role. Mostly these places will be known formally by the title ‘town’ but some still prefer to retain the older ‘parish’ title (and there is no problem from our viewpoint if that is the case).
  • We look for these communities to come together from across England to learn from each other and to set out and present their unique promotional and representational case. We do believe it is in the national interest that this occurs. Rural/ Market Towns form a vital skeletal network throughout the whole of England and their interests need to be considered continually and promoted if that network is to actually thrive.

The RSN believes that Rural Communities in England have frequently been overlooked in a policy environment dominated by urban thinking and policy concerns. This often means those communities and their towns either miss out on the benefits or experience unintended consequences from policies which are poorly thought-through from a rural perspective. Government policy can currently consequently neglect these many hundreds of important rural towns across England. Rural/Market Towns are a vital part of both the rural and the national equation. They deserve more focus and the only way of seeking to achieve that is by working together.

Rural areas and their intricate network of rural communities should be able to realise their potential within the national economy and need to be appropriately recognised and supported in government thinking and actions.

What is the Rural Market Town Group?

To underline the importance of these English towns, the role they play and their potential going forward, the Rural Services Network have developed this new initiative to develop a Rural / Market Town Grouping within the Rural Services Network. This new Grouping will work to add to our Call on Government for a Rural Strategy.

We have begun this initiative by approaching one town or the largest village in each of the 200+ rural areas across England which has been identified by Defra for their distinctive characteristic. This process will now be expanded  to ensure that all those that wish to be involved are fully engaged.

Whilst we appreciate and celebrate the diversity of our rural areas, we also seek to create one collective voice to represent all these different types of rural areas across England, ensuring that no form of rural area becomes excluded.

We look to do as follows:

  1. Create a Network across England enabling Rural/Market Towns to share best practice and concerns and arrive at consensus viewpoints (we will prove to you that this is worth the subscription on its own)

  2. Give Rural/Market Towns collectively the essential Grouping necessary to create the opportunity to present their views and formulate their asks of decision makers.

  3. Present a full annual programme that facilitates this joint working and ensures that individual Market Towns absolutely get really full value from membership. That programme is comprehensive and is attached in the accompanying word document.

Up to until now 232 Towns and Parishes have agreed to commence this group. Our target is 400 English Rural/Market Towns. We are similarly looking to bring together a separate Grouping of English Villages of similar size.

If we are to convince others we have to be convincing, ourselves, and that requires involvement. We need strength of numbers and collective work and thought. We will ensure the service is a strong one without it being onerous and that it gives back full value. Please can your rural town work with us to achieve a stronger national recognition for rural towns and for rural areas to the benefit of your residents and to the national economy. 


View current members by clicking here

If other Rural Towns who we are yet to contact want to learn more about this matter, please contact us at admin@sparse.gov.uk

Services provided to the group will include:

  • Weekly edition of the Rural Bulletin, the RSN publication which includes relevant rural news and articles highlighting key issues affecting rural service delivery and communities.
  • Monthly Funding Digest which sets out funding and grant opportunities along with key Government Consultations relating to rural areas.
  • An Area Profile of their Principal Council issued once a year setting out key statistics in relation to the rural area. This will help to give the overall picture of their local area to help plan services and understand local issues.
  • Involvement in RSN Consultation Programme, this could include responding to Government White Papers, Call for Evidence and Select Committee Inquiries. In addition, they will help to develop the rural voice at a national level to ensure the voice of rural market towns and Larger Parish Councils are represented. This would be in the form of surveys, call for evidence / case studies.
  • Dedicated Rural Market Town Group newsletter four times a year setting out key issues for the group and highlighting the work of the RSN where relevant to them.
  • Free access to the Rural Services Network Seminar Programme, in 2021 this will include 9 seminars throughout the year on a range of key rural topics.
  • An Annual Rural Poll (via Survey Monkey) seeking to establish the top (up to 5) issues currently facing Group Member Councils. The results to be reported to and fully discussed by one of the twice-yearly meetings.
  • Attendance at a twice - yearly meeting of the Rural Market Town Group (via ZOOM) - this group is for Councillors and its purpose is to enable networking and consider key issues at a strategic level for rural villages.
  • Attendance at a yearly meeting of the Rural Market Town Group Clerks meeting – (via ZOOM), the purpose of the meeting is to enable networking and consider key issues at a strategic level for the clerks.
  • Cataloguing of good practice and learning material related to key policy areas and challenges or opportunities for rural market towns and large Parishes.
  • The pattern of local area Market Town meetings is mixed across England. The group could explore this to see if there is any improvement in areas where meetings / joint working is not taking place currently and look at how liaison can take place between this national facing group and existing area meetings.
Rural Market Town Material:
.New Rural Market Town Members (115):
Bakewell Town Council Coggeshall Parish Council Westerham Town Council Billinge Chapel End Parish Council Hedge End Town Council
Bridport Town Council South Molton Town Council Crowland Parish Council Market Harborough Clowne Parish Council
Lechlade on Thames Town Council Penistone Town Council Diss Town Council Richmond Town Council Bicester Town Council
Holt Town Council Hullbridge Parish Council Chipping Ongar Town Council Barkham Parish Council Axminster Town Council
Barlaston Parish Council Birtley Parish Council Bishops Castle Town Council Chapel-en-le-Frith Parish Council Charnock Richard Parish Council
Epworth Town Council Harleston Town Council Pickering Town Council Snaith and Cowick Town Council Somerton Town Council
Swanage Town Council The Gorge Parish Council Totnes Town Council

Alton Town Council

Chobham Parish Council

Brewood and Coven Parish Council

Peacehaven Town Council

Bovingdon Parish Council

Oundle Town Council

Camelford Town Council

Bideford Town Council

Upper Arley Parish Council

Easingwold Town Council

Luddesdown Parish Council

Minehead Town Council

Okehampton Town Council

Malton Town Council

Maldon Town Council

Great Dunmow Council

Moretonhampstead Parish Council

Addingham Parish Council

Edenbridge Town Council

Tadcaster Town Council

Hunstanton Town Council

Ripley Town Council

Hythe Town Council

Wirksworth Town Council

Ripponden Parish Council

Borden Parish Council

Wadebridge Town Council

Theale Parish Council

Witney Town Council

Ollerton and Boughton Town Council

Westbury Town Council Barnstaple Town Council

Flitwick Town Council

Fordingbridge Town Council

Sutton Valence Council

Baildon Town Council Sedgefield Town Council

Cottingham Parish Council

Overton Parish Council

Lyme Regis Town Council

Shepshed Town Council Yarm Town Council

Gillingham Town Council

Waltham on the Wolds and Thorpe Arnold Parish Council

Meltham Town Council

Wincanton Town Council

Southwell Town Council

Lynton and Lynmouth Town Council

Hodnet Parish Council

Bradford on Avon Town Council

Broadway Parish Council

Rock Parish Council

Keynsham Town Council

Brodsworth Parish Council

Old Bolsover Town Council

Mirfield Town Council New Waltham Parish Council

Melbourne Parish Council

Donington Parish Council

Dartmouth Town Council

Cinderford Town Council Hemsworth Town Council

Howden Town Council

Southam Town Council

Redruth Town Council

Billinghurst Parish Council Thurmaston Parish Council

Watchet Town Council

Heathfield and Waldron Parish Council

Kinver Parish Council

Wargrave Parish Council Fazeley Town Council

Charlbury Town Council

Ventnor Town Council

Henley in Arden Parish Council

Malvern Town Council Bromyard and Winslow Town Council

Walmer Parish Council

Grange Park Parish Council

Bruton Town Council

Lenham Parish Council
Chilham Parish Council
Established Rural Market Town Members (117):
Ackworth Parish Council Alcester Town Council Alnwick Town Council Ampthill Town Council Arundel Town Council
Ashby de la Zouch Town Council Atherstone Town Council Balsall Parish Council Belper Town Council Biddenden Parish Council
Biddulph Town Council Bingham Town Council Bourne Town Council Bovey Tracey Town Council Brampton Parish Council
Buckingham Town Council Burnham on Sea and Highbridge Town Council Burscough Parish Council Caistor Town Council Carnforth Town Council
Chalfont St Giles Parish Council Chard Town Council Cheadle Town Council Church Stretton Town Council Cirencester Town Council
Clare Town Council Cleator Moor Town Council Clevedon Town Council Clitheroe Town Council Clun Town Council with Chapel Lawn
Corsham Town Council Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council Cranleigh Parish Council Crediton Town Council Dalton with Newton Town Council
Daventry Town Council Downham Market Town Council Earl Shilton Town Council Earby Town Council East Grinstead Town Council
East Horsley Parish Council Faringdon Town Council Faversham Town Council Finedon Town Council Frodsham Town Council
Garstang Town Council Great Torrington Town Council Hadleigh Town Council Halstead Town Council Hartley Witney Parish Council
Harworth and Bircotes Town Council Hetton Town Council Hexham Town Council Holsworthy Town Council Kendal Town Council
Keswick Town Council Kirkby Stephen Town Council Knaresborough Town Council Knutsford Town Council Launceston Town Council
Ledbury Town Council Leominster Town Council Longridge Town Council Lutterworth Town Council Lymm Parish Council
Mablethorpe and Sutton Town Council Market Rasen Town Council Marlborough Town Council Midsomer Norton Town Council Minster Parish Council
New Alresford Town Council Newport Town Council Normandy Parish Council Oakham Town Council Olney Town Council
Otley Town Council Oxted Parish Council Penrith Town Council Penzance Town Council Petersfield Town Council
Ripon City Council Rothwell Town Council Rye Town Council Saffron Walden Town Council Sandy Town Council
Saxmundham Town Council Seaton Town Council Shaftesbury Town Council Sherborne Town Council Shildon Town Council
Sleaford Town Council Sodbury Town Council Soham Town Council St Austell Town Council St Ives Town Council
Stowmarket Town Council Stroud Town Council Swanley Town Council Swineshead Parish Council Tavistock Town Council
Tenbury Town Council Tenterden Town Council Thetford Town Council Thornbury Town Council Uckfield Town Council
Uppingham Town Council Uttoxeter Town Council Verwood Town Council Wem Town Council Wendover Parish Council
Wells City Council

West Chiltington Parish Council

Wetherby Town Council

Wheathampstead Parish Council

Whitby Town Council
Wisbech Town Council

Wotton-under-Edge Town Council




We have in its infancy a Group that will provide a RSN subscription service for Parish Councils who are interested in village services . This service, the Rural Village Services Group will formally commence in the autumn. Details of this Group can be found under the Parish area of this website.  The Councils who have agreed to join this group thus far are:

Acle Barton Under Needwood East Budleigh with Bicton Parish Council Middleton-in-Teesdale and Newbiggin Parish Council Woodborough Parish Council
Sapcote Parish Council Ruyton XI Towns Parish Council
Castor Parish Council


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