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UK - Rural Changes

Social and economic changes in the rural landscape in one area of population growth and one area of population decline

A rural area in the UK is defined as an area with a population of less than 10,000 people.  Villages become “towns" as soon as they pass this figure. Generally, a rural area is usually defined as one that is relatively sparsely populated and either left as wilderness or with farming as a major economic activity. We often describe rural areas as countryside. Opposite is a selection of image results from a web search on “UK rural areas”.

Rural Images


Rural areas have many characteristics, and although many people view them as countryside area where farming is the main economic activity, this is no longer the truth. There are a huge number of economic activities in rural areas as the pie chart opposite shows, and rural areas can thrive in the right circumstances.

UK rural economy

Rural Population Growth

Generally, rural areas in the UK that are close to major centres of population such as towns and cities have experienced population growth. These areas are known as ACCESSIBLE RURAL as they are well connected to cities via roads and other transport links. This allows for COUNTER-URBANISATION, where people move to rural areas to improve their quality of life but COMMUTE to cities for their jobs or HOME WORK.


Rural population decline

Rural areas which have a decline in population have been in REMOTE less accessible areas far from major towns and cities. In these less accessible rural areas many of the younger population move out. The reasons for this are known as push factors, and for the young people are the shortage of jobs and a lack of social life.

If population shrinks or the population ages then the SERVICES available could decline. Shops and post offices become less profitable because of rural depopulation. Bus services may decline leaving the elderly cut off. This can result in a cycle of rural decline.


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