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Rural Issues

The importance of rural

Lincolnshire county and the GLLEP area is large and sparsely populated, and it is easy to take rurality for granted. The nature of the rural area impacts on the opportunities and challenges faced by people and businesses, and on quality of life. There are challenges of delivering services in rural areas due to distance and sparsity, which has been defined as the triangular dilemma of rural service delivery[1]. The three corners of the triangle are:

  • the delivery of a high quality service
  • keeping unit costs low, and
  • achieving a good geographical spread of outlets such that the less mobile are not excluded.

Service outlets can frequently meet two of the three factors, but achieving all three in rural areas where service users are small in number and geographically spread is often impossible. The rural dilemma applies equally to commercial and voluntary services, as well as to public ones. Rural pilot and community projects, such as multi-use centres, often seek to mitigate the rural dilemma. The increasing availability of information and services online is also a factor.

Defining Rural

The Office for National Statistics has published a Rural Urban Classification system, and the latest version is based on the 2011 Census. Under this system rural areas are defined as anywhere which is not a settlement of 10,000 people or above. This simple Rural/Urban split is useful to compare statistics and can be applied to data available at Census Output Area (COA), Lower Layer Super Output Area (LSOA), Middle Layer Super Output Area (MSOA) or 2011 Ward level.

For more detailed analysis the system also subdivides rural urban as follows:

  • Urban major conurbation
  • Urban minor conurbation
  • Urban city and town
  • Urban city and town in a sparse setting
  • Rural town and fringe
  • Rural town and fringe in a sparse setting
  • Rural village
  • Rural village in a sparse setting
  • Rural hamlets and isolated dwellings
  • Rural hamlets and isolated dwellings in a sparse setting

For more details about the Rural/Urban classification system read the ONS Rural Urban Classification Leaflet.

How Rural Is Lincolnshire?

Lincolnshire is a large and sparsely populated county. In England 18% of the population[2] live in rural areas, that is in towns of less than 10,000 people, in villages, hamlets or isolated dwellings. In Lincolnshire the figure is 48%.

  • Rural areas make up 95% of the land area[3] of Lincolnshire.
  • Lincolnshire has the 16th highest county population[2] in England but the 5th highest population of people who live in rural areas.
  • Over half (52%) of the county's older people[2] (age 65 and over) live in rural areas.
  • In rural areas older people[2] (age 65 and over) account for 23% of the population as opposed to 19% in urban areas.
  • Almost half (48%) of all business units[4] in Lincolnshire are in rural areas.


  1. Moseley M (2000) England’s village services in the late 1990s Town Planning Review 71, 4
  2. ONS Census 2011
  3. ONS Standard Area Measurement (SAM) for 2011 output areas
  4. ONS Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) 2011/2012