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 document helps policy makers and analysts in government to assess the effects of their policies on rural areas. We call this rural proofing.

Rural proofing is important because rural communities are an important part of the economy. Rural areas are home to one-fifth of England’s population and a quarter of all registered businesses; they contribute over 16 per cent of England’s economy each year. However, rural areas face particular challenges around distance, sparsity and demography. That is why government policies are required to take these into account at all stages of development.

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

Further information

Defra works with policy‐makers across government to assess rural impacts and to mitigate them. For advice on rural proofing please email rural.communities@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

Our analysts maintain and develop the evidence base in our online rural hub, and advise and work with other analysts. Key tools include:

For help with rural statistics please email rural.statistics@defra.gsi.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. We committed to this in our response to the review. This document builds on the existing guidance and provides a clear framework for identifying and assessing rural impacts.

Published 16 March 2017