OECD Rural Policy Reviews: England, United Kingdom 2011

image of OECD Rural Policy Reviews: England, United Kingdom 2011

Rural England plays a significant role in the economy of the United Kingdom, but an even larger social and cultural role. And it is unique among OECD regions, in that it is geographically compact, with rural inhabitants generally no more than a half hour’s drive from an urban area. There is thus a vast amount of interaction between rural and urban populations in England.

England’s rural population is, on average, doing better than the urban population across a broad range of socio-economic indicators. Nevertheless, rural England is also struggling with pockets of poverty and social exclusion, difficulties in maintaining access to high quality public services, an ageing population, and, most importantly, a widespread shortage of affordable housing.

The government has adopted mainstreaming as its rural policy strategy. The objective of mainstreaming is to ensure that people in rural England have access to the same policies and programmes as those available in urban England. While mainstreaming is an attractive policy approach, especially in a country with strong rural-urban interactions such as England, it has proved challenging to implement for different reasons. This report examines the mainstreaming policy response as applied to rural England and suggests ways to increase its effectiveness.

The report will interest academics and policy makers alike as it includes a discussion on governance structures and decentralisation; delivering public services; economic development; and the importance of improving connectivity in the context of rural areas.  While the focus is on rural England, other OECD member countries will also benefit from the insights provided.


Assessment and Recommendations

England lies above the OECD average for intermediate and predominantly urban regions in terms of territory, population and share of GDP. Using the OECD definition, about 10% of England’s population is considered rural. In intermediate regions, the rural population makes up about 28% of the total, while it is about 4% in predominantly urban regions. Using the rural typology employed by the UK authorities, roughly 80% of the population is classified as urban (living in a place of more than 10 000 inhabitants) and 20% is rural. Of the 9.6 million rural residents only 600 000 (6%) live in “sparse” rural areas but they constitute the vast majority of the population of these areas, since there are only 100 000 urban residents in sparse areas. By contrast, the roughly 9 000 000 rural residents in “less sparse” areas are only 20% of the total population. One can roughly identify the less sparse territory as being adjacent to, or influenced by, urban settlements, while the sparse territory is relatively free from major urban influences.

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