Policy paper

Rural proofing

Practical guidance for policy makers and analysts in government to assess and take into account the effects of policies on rural areas.

This was published under the 2016 to 2019 May Conservative government



This document helps policy makers and analysts in government to consider how to achieve the outcomes they want from their policies in rural areas. This is called this rural proofing.

Rural proofing is important because rural communities are an important part of the economy. Rural areas are home to around one-fifth of England’s population and a quarter of all registered businesses. Policy outcomes in rural areas can be affected by economies of scale, distance, sparsity and demography. That is why it is important that government policies consider how they can be delivered in rural areas.

This guidance sets out a four-stage process to achieve this objective.

Further information

The government has published the following annual reports on rural proofing:

There is Defra commissioned research on Defining and Measuring Rural Wellbeing - guidance for policy makers and evaluators.

Defra works with policy makers across government to consider rural outcomes and to support their delivery. For advice on rural proofing email rural.proofing@defra.gov.uk

Defra analysts maintain and develop an evidence base and work with analysts in other departments. Tools include:

  • the Statistical Digest of Rural England - which provides a wide range of statistical analysis on issues affecting rural England and the differences and similarities between rural and urban areas
  • the Rural-Urban Classification - which enables us to differentiate between rural and urban areas, for a range of geographies

For help with rural statistics email rural.statistics@defra.gov.uk

You can also read Defra’s statement of rural research priorities.


The government-commissioned independent review of rural proofing led by Lord Cameron of Dillington recommended strengthening the rural proofing guidance. Defra committed to this in the Rural Proofing: government response to Lord Cameron’s review. This document builds on the existing guidance and provides a clear framework for identifying and assessing rural impacts.

Updates to this page

Published 16 March 2017
Last updated 2 December 2022 + show all updates
  1. Uploaded new document ‘Rural proofing: practical guidance to assess impacts of policies on rural’ to update style and formatting.

  2. First published.

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