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Rural Urban Classification (2001) of Local Authorities in England and Wales (DEFRA)
Office for National Statistics
20 September 2023
The Rural Definition was introduced in 2004 as a joint project between the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC - formerly the Countryside Agency), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and the Welsh Assembly. It was delivered by the Rural Evidence Research Centre at Birkbeck College (RERC).
A) This new 'spectrum', or graded system, replaces the earlier Oxford/CA binary ward classification and adopts a settlement-based approach.
B) It is available for England and Wales at:
Census Output Area (COA or OA)
Census Super Output Area (CSOA or SOA)
[OAs consist of ~125 households and have a population of ~300. SOAs are built of OAs, typically 5, and so contain ~625 households or a mean population of ~1500. OAs therefore vary greatly in size and shape between urban and rural regions, for example a single tower block may consist of more than one OA, whereas a large area of remote moorland may be covered by a single OA.] More information on OAs and SOAs.
C) Output areas are classified by morphology and context:
Urban (over 10,000)
Dispersed (hamlets and isolated dwellings)
This gives 8 Urban/Rural Classification (1 urban and 6 rural):
Urban (Less Sparse)
Town (Less Sparse)
Village (Less Sparse)
Dispersed (Less Sparse)
In April 2009 significant changes in the structure of local government came into force. These changes, especially the creation of 9 new unitary authorities, have necessitated an update to the Local Authority Classification. The Government Statistical Service Regional and Geography Group (GSSRG) commissioned a working group to look at this issue, and the outcome of this working group is a revised LA Classification. Detailed information about the changes can be found here, with guidance on how to use the Definition and Classification here.