Rural analysts and activists take note. Defra has updated its rural proofing guidance this week. This will be a key reference for anybody interested in the development and impact of policies which affect rural areas. Why?
Because policy measures are meant to have been ‘rural proofed’. So the criteria for rural proofing are important because they provide a framework for the independent evaluation of rural impact. They are also therefore a sound basis on which to challenge measures which may adversely affect rural economic, social and environmental interests, or to promote measures which will support these interests.
The Defra guidance tells us:
Thriving rural communities are vital to the English economy. A fifth of us live in rural areas and they are home to a quarter of England’s businesses, and generate 16.5% of the English economy. Rural areas face particular challenges around distance, sparsity and demography and it is important that government policies consider these properly.
Rural proofing is about understanding the impacts of policies in rural areas. It ensures that these areas receive fair and equitable policy outcomes. This guidance sets out a four- stage process to achieve this objective.
Figure One of the Defra Guidance offers this four stage process for rural-proofing:
The Guidance goes on to suggest this way to assess rural impact:
Worth a look for anybody concerned with rural policy and development nationally, regionally or locally.