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Rural proofing in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, rural proofing is integral to the policy-making cycle. In England, 9.8 million people (19% of the population) live in rural areas. Virtually all policies impact upon rural communities. Rural proofing helps achieve good economic, environmental and social solutions that contribute to growth. Rural proofing is a commitment by the government to ensure that domestic policies take account of rural circumstances and needs. It is a mandatory part of the policy process, which means as policies are developed, policy makers should:

  • • consider whether their policy is likely to have a different impact in rural areas, because of particular circumstances or needs
  • • make a proper assessment of those impacts, if they are likely to be significant
  • • adjust the policy where appropriate, with solutions to meet rural needs and circumstances.

Box 3.6. Rural proofing in the United Kingdom and Canada (cont.)

The point of encouraging early assessments of expected, or likely, impacts in rural areas is a critical factor for rural mainstreaming. This type of prior assessment of policy goes well beyond a mere audit. It is about making the right evidence on rural dynamics available to the key decision makers in a timely fashion so as to enable the introduction of corrective measures. Rural proofing applies to all policies, programmes and initiatives and it applies to both the design and delivery stage. DEFRA’s Rural Communities Policy Unit (RCPU) has been established as the centre of rural expertise within government, and is able to advise policy makers on the likelihood and possible scale of rural impacts, and to suggest actions that might be taken to mitigate these. The RCPU can provide up-to-date information on rural areas and key rural stakeholders. At the same time, DEFRA has developed a suite of local level rural proofing materials, to guide and help local decision makers to “rural proof’ local policies and practices.

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