Rural Affairs

Rural Affairs

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Environmental Stewardship
Horse passports
Rural Definition and Local Authority Classification
Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013
Rural Funding Streams Review
Rural Proofing checklist
Rural Social and Community Programme
Rural Evidence Hub
Photograph showing grass covered sand dunes on Holy Island

Our aim is to reduce the gap in productivity between the least well performing quartile of rural areas and the English Median by 2008, demonstrating progress by 2006, and improve the accessibility of services for people in rural areas.

The evidence for poor economic and social conditions in some rural areas is both compelling and measurable. Our target is to lay solid foundations to achieve sustainable and long term regeneration in these areas.

Latest news

Natural England and Commission for Rural Communities established

On Sunday 1 October 2006 Natural England, the integrated countryside and land management agency, and the Commission for Rural Communities, the independent adviser, watchdog and advocate for rural people were formally established, taking on their full statutory responsibilities.  At the same time, as part of the wider Modernising Rural Delivery reforms, the Regional Development Agencies also took over the former Rural Development Service’s socio-economic funding responsibilities. [Further information]

Affordable Rural Housing

An update on the action the Government has taken to improve the supply of affordable housing in rural areas, informed by the recommendations of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission's report is now available. [Further information]

Rural Statistics

Rural Statistics offers links to the Rural Evidence Hub for interactive queries and mapping as well as 'off-the-shelf' reports, maps, the rural atlas, definitions, etc.

Rural Development Funding

The England Rural Development Programme, which provided a range of funding for rural areas, closed at the end of 2006.  The socio-economic schemes, the Rural Enterprise Scheme, the Vocational Training Scheme and the Processing and Marketing Grant, closed to new applications at the end of June 2006 [Further information].  The new Rural Development Programme for England will take forward rural development funding for the period 2007-2013 [Further information].

Rural Social and Community Programme

The purpose of the Rural Social and Community Programme is to develop the capacity of the rural voluntary and community and parish council sectors to address locally defined issues of disadvantage and help shape the communities in which they serve  [Further Information]

Rural Strategy 2004 coverRural Strategy 2004

On 21 July 2004 The Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett, launched the Rural Strategy 2004 which sets the framework for the Government’s rural policy for the next 3-5 years.

The Rural Strategy 2004 identifies three key priorities for rural policy:

  • Economic and Social Regeneration - supporting enterprise across rural England, but targeting greater resources at areas of greatest need.
  • Social Justice for All - tackling rural social exclusion wherever it occurs and providing fair access to services and opportunities for all rural people.
  • Enhancing the Value of our Countryside - protecting the natural environment for this and future generations.

Sustainable development underpins all of these policies and their delivery arrangements. [Further Information]

Modernising Rural Delivery

The implementation of the Strategy was, in the main, carried out through the ‘Modernising Rural Delivery programme’ in Defra, which ran until March 2007. [Further information]

Rural Voice

The Rural White Paper (2000) said it was important that Ministers should “have regular and direct contact with the main rural groups so that they know what is going on and what countryside people think”. The Government remains fully committed to this and believes a role for the Rural Advocate at national level is as strong as ever. [Further information]

Social Enterprise

Social enterprise has significant potential to contribute to the achievement of our overarching aim of sustainable development and other policy objectives. Social enterprises bring benefits for the public through local regeneration, wealth creation, social inclusion, environmental improvement and better service delivery in rural areas. [Further information]

Rural Enterprise and Skills

Viable, sustainable businesses are crucial to the prosperity of the countryside, and in Rural Strategy 2004 Defra made a commitment to working to ensure that rural businesses have access to appropriate business support and training. Since then, we have worked with partners from central, regional and local government on a number of projects to help rural businesses get the help and advice they need [Further Information]

Public Access to the Countryside

This page provides information about Defra's work on public access to the countryside, developed under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) and Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) Scheme. Information on the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) is available separately on the Defra website... [Further Information]

Photo of horse riders in the New Forest Horse Industry

The horse industry is an important contributor to the national and especially rural economies, the social fabric of rural communities, and environmental and land management. Defra works for the good of horses for people who ride, own, or work with horses; and for the sustainable benefits which horses bring to economies and communities. [Further information]

Structural Funds

The EU Structural Funds exist to help areas of Europe which, for one reason or another are suffering difficulties. This could be due to the decline of local industry or falls in income (e.g. because of falling commodity prices reducing farm incomes). The funds are intended to be used to help sponsor projects which will directly address locally identified needs.


LEADER+ is a 6 year European Community initiative for assisting rural communities in improving the quality of life and economic prosperity in their local area. Partnerships of local organisations and people (local action groups) receive funds to identify development needs within their rural communities and develop and test small-scale, innovative pilot projects to meet these development needs in a sustainable way... [Further Information]

Objective 1

To promote the development and structural adjustment of regions whose development is lagging behind. The Objective 1 Programme runs from 2000 to 2006. In England, three areas (Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, South Yorkshire and Merseyside) have been designated for Objective 1 support... [Further Information]

Objective 2

To support the economic and social conversion of areas facing structural difficulties. Objective 2 areas in England are funded through the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP). All ERDP schemes in Objective 2 Areas operate as in other areas except for some measures under the Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES).... [Further Information]

Photograph of a village shop and post officeRural White Paper

Our Countryside: The Future - A Fair Deal for Rural England


The countryside is important to all of us. Town and country are interdependent and the needs of both have to be addressed together. But there are special problems in rural areas which require a direct response and that is the focus of this paper.... [Further Information]

Implementation Plan

The Rural White Paper Implementation Plan was first published in March 2001, to set out the action on implementation and delivery of each of the measures announced in the White Paper, 'Our Countryside: the future, a fair deal for rural England'.... [Further Information]

Rural White Paper Review

Run in parallel with Lord Haskins' Rural Delivery Review, the Rural White Paper review was commissioned to assess progress on the 2000 Rural White Paper, see whether objectives needed refreshing in the light of wider changes to the Government's agenda, and look for ways to accelerate delivery. The Review has found some major successes from the original White Paper and was used to develop the Government's Rural Strategy for the next 3 to 5 years.

Cover of the Rural Services ReviewRural Services Review

The new style Rural Services Review incorporates the ideals of the rural services standards but shows how national standards are being taken forward at the level of the individual or local area... [Further information]

Rural Evidence Base

Updated Defra places high value on clear and compelling analysis in order to develop effective policies. As part of this, we have a substantial rural research programme which is helping to build the necessary evidence base, including up-to-date data and research findings on rural trends. [Further information]

Cover of the joint D T i / Defra Broadband toolkit document Broadband

Improving broadband access across the whole of the UK, especially in rural areas, is one of the Government’s top priorities. In the last 2 years there has been enormous progress towards providing access to affordable broadband to every community in England from a competitive market. [Further information]

Village Halls and community buildings

Village halls and community buildings undoubtedly have a vital role to play in village life. The Government fully understands how important community facilities are to creating vibrant and cohesive communities.... [Further information]

Defra and the Compact

Defra is strongly committed to creating a framework in which the voluntary and community sector can flourish, be strong and independent. We use the Compact as the basis for effective partnership working with the sector and to underline our respect for its independence. We recognise the contribution voluntary and community organisations make to developing and delivering our policies, to service delivery, to strengthening rural communities and to achieving sustainable development. [Further information]

Rural Stress Action Plan

Applications are invited for funding under the fifth Defra Rural Stress Action Plan which is being co-ordinated jointly by Defra and the Rural Stress Information Network (RSIN) on behalf of the Rural Stress Action Plan Working Group (RSAP)... [Further information]

2 February, 2003

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs