Use and Understanding of the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification

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APPENDIX 3 URBAN RURAL CLASSIFICATIONS

CLASSIFICATIONS

SCOTLAND URBAN RURAL SYSTEMS

1 The Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification (version 2007-2008)

2 Randall Definition (Scottish Government)

3 HIE Fragility System

4 Scottish Enterprise / COSLA - Scottish Small Towns Task Group

REST OF THE UK URBAN RURAL SYSTEMS

5 Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, NISRA Urban Rural Definition

6 Urban Settlement Definition: Office of National Statistics, on behalf of the Office of The Deputy Prime Minister / DEFRA / Countryside Agency

7 Administrative Area Classification Definition: Office of National Statistics, on behalf of the Office of The Deputy Prime Minister / DEFRA / Countryside Agency

8 DEFRA Classification of Local Authority Districts / Unitary Authorities in England

9 Local Government Finance 'Sparcity' Measures

10 ONS Area Classification - District Level Clusters

11 ONS Area Classification - Ward Level Clusters

12 Countryside Agency Rural Services Survey Parishes

NON URBAN RURAL SYSTEMS

13 PAF (Postcode Address File)

14 ACORN / MOSAIC Geodemographic Segmentation

15 SIMD (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation)

SCOTLAND URBAN RURAL SYSTEMS (CURRENT SYSTEMS)

1 The Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification (version 2007-2008)

The Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification (version 2007-2008, which updates the 2005-2006 version) was first released in 2000 and is consistent with the Government's core definition of rurality which defines settlements of 3,000 or less people to be rural. It also classifies areas as remote based on drive times from settlements of 10,000 or more people. The definitions of urban and rural areas underlying the classification are unchanged.

Population thresholds are used to distinguish between urban and rural areas; the settlements dataset is classified into 'large urban areas', 'other urban areas', 'small towns' or 'rural areas'. Drive times are then estimated around Settlements classed as 'large urban areas' and 'other urban areas' to distinguish between accessible and remote areas.

The 6-fold breakdown of the classification includes:

  • Large Urban Areas - Settlements of over 125,000 people
  • Other Urban Areas - Settlements of 10,000 to 125,000 people
  • Accessible Small Towns - Settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more.
  • Remote Small Towns - Settlements of between 3,000 and 10,000 people and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more
  • Accessible Rural - Settlements of less than 3,000 people and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of 10,000 or more
  • Remote Rural - Settlements of less than 3,000 people and with a drive time of over 30 minutes to a settlement of 10,000 or more

An additional version of the classification contains 8 categories (8-fold classification) that further splits remote (both towns and rural) into remote and very remote.

Benefits:

These definitions appear to have been widely adopted among both public and private institutions in Scotland inclusive of academic, local government and analysts and policy makers. The 8-fold and 6-fold classifications offer a high level of detail for analysis purposes

Limitations:

Some caution should be exercised when comparing data using different versions, as there have been some slight changes in settlement populations and settlement boundaries.

2 Randall Definition (Scottish Government)

Originally produced in 1985 for the Scottish Economic bulletin ( SEB) as a means of profiling economic trends and indicating need for support in rural Scotland. The system is based upon population density within a unitary authority. Where a unitary authority has a population density of less than one person per hectare it is considered Rural. On this basis there are 14 rural unitary authorities. These are:

  • Aberdeenshire
  • Angus
  • Argyll and Bute
  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • East Ayrshire
  • Highland
  • Moray
  • Orkney Islands
  • Perth and Kinross
  • Scottish Borders
  • Shetland Islands
  • South Ayrshire
  • Stirling
  • Western Isles (Eilean Siar)

According to the Randall definition of rurality, 89% of Scotland's landmass and 29% of its population is classified as rural (defined in 1995).

Benefits:

Unitary Authority data is readily available and it is therefore very easy to use this system for classification.

Limitations:

Since the classification system is Unitary Authority based, some urban pockets including Stirling and Inverness, are classified as rural.

3 HIE Fragility System

A comprehensive review of 'fragile areas' and areas of employment deficit was undertaken in late 2007 using updated demographic, geographic and economic indicators.

Fragile areas are characterised by weakening of communities through population loss, low incomes, limited employment opportunities, poor infrastructure and remoteness. HIE gives these areas priority, with support targeted at projects that will grow the economy and contribute to the long-term strengthening of these communities.

Four key indicators of fragility have been identified: population sparcity; population decline; level of prosperity and accessibility / peripherality. These are estimated by measuring population density, % population change, % change in population aged 0-15, income support claimant rate, long term unemployment, 10 min drive time to 5 key services and areas outwith 1.5 hr drive time of Inverness.

Taken in order of zones of fragility, highest to lowest, these were identified as:

  • North East and Central Sutherland
  • South/west Caithness
  • Skye
  • South Wester Ross, extending inland to Dingwall
  • North West Sutherland
  • South West Lochaber and Kyle area
  • Mid Ross and North Easter Ross
  • North Caithness
  • South Nairn/Remote Inverness
  • Badenoch & Strathspey and East Lochaber (excluding Fort William and environs)
  • North Wester Ross
  • South East Sutherland
  • Inverness / Inner Moray Firth area
  • Fort William and immediate hinterland (least fragile)

Benefits:

The method of evaluating a range of indices to provide the fragility score is possibly transferable to other areas (with the exception of drive time to Inverness).

Limitations:Limited to specific regions i.e. Highlands and Islands region of Scotland.

4 Scottish Enterprise / COSLA - Scottish Small Towns Task Group

The Scottish Small Towns Task Group was formed to highlight the issues and challenges facing small towns in Scotland as their contribution tends to be underestimated with current policy focusing on cities and remoter rural areas.

Due to their size, geographical location and environmental conditions, policy instruments for the development of small towns needs to be flexible and linked to their relationship with city/metro regions through to the rural hinterlands.

The task force undertook a Local Authority survey of small towns 2005 - 06. They defined small town settlements as being between 2,000 and 20,000 population (compared to the Scottish Government's definition of 3,000 to 10,000).

Four categories of town have been defined:

  • Within 30 miles of cities with good transport links and relatively large commuter population
  • Declining traditional industry which are on the edge of cities, or relatively remote from city influences
  • Relatively beyond the influence of cities and other major towns and act as a main market town / service centre for surrounding areas
  • Both seaports and services centres, located on islands

Benefits:

Specific application of system for Scottish small urban settlements - an area of study that has not been focused on in as much detail by the Scottish Government as have cities or remote rural areas.

Limitations:

Analysis of population levels in towns is complicated by expanding town boundaries, which makes comparison complex. A very specific system, tailored to study only one type of settlement as opposed to the full range of urban - rural settlements. Each Local Authority uses their own definition of town boundary and methods for defining these boundaries may differ between each Local Authority, and thus homogeneity of urban measurement may not be guaranteed within this classification system.

REST OF THE UK URBAN RURAL SYSTEMS (CURRENT SYSTEMS)

Northern Ireland

5 Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, NISRA Urban Rural Definition

Statutory settlement development limits provided by the DOE Planning Service have been used as the best geographical delineation for defining settlements. Settlement development limits are designated by the NI Planning Service in order to protect the character of settlements and prevent urban sprawl into the surrounding countryside whilst providing for future development needs. Their purpose is not solely to define settlements geographically.

Classification includes:

  • Band A: Belfast Metropolitan - Urban Area ( BMUA) c580,000
  • Band B: Derry Urban Area ( DUA) c90,000
  • Band C: Large town 18,000 or more and under 75,000 (outside BMUA and DUA)
  • Band D: Medium town 10,000 or more and under 18,000 (outside BMUA and DUA)
  • Band E: Small town 4,500 or more and under 10,000; (outside BMUA and DUA)
  • Band F: Intermediate settlement 2,250 or more and under 4,500 (outside BMUA and DUA)
  • Band G: Village 1,000 or more and under 2,250 (outside BMUA and DUA)
  • Band H: Small village, hamlet and Settlements of less than 1,000 open countryside people and open countryside (outside BMUA and DUA)

In the absence of a programme-specific definition, Bands A-E can be defined as urban and Bands F-H as rural. This reflects the broad consensus of past departmental usage that the divide between urban and rural lies among settlements whose populations are between 3,000 and 5,000.

Benefits:

An up to date classification system designed specifically to assess settlement patterns in Northern Ireland.

Limitations:

The system is custom matched for the geographic area, namely Northern Ireland, and is not directly transferable for assessing other areas of the UK. Historically, the distinction between 'urban' and 'rural' in Northern Ireland has not been clear-cut. In an attempt to clarify the urban rural definitions, three criteria have been identified as relevant in ascribing urban characteristics to settlements: population size, population density and service provision. It was recognised that none of these criteria, in isolation, was sufficient and that a combination of these data indices were required to classify settlements (for use by central government departments).

England and Wales

All systems in this section apply to England and Wales as a whole.

6 Urban Settlement Definition: Office of National Statistics, on behalf of the Office of The Deputy Prime Minister / DEFRA / Countryside Agency

This system is based on land use in England and Wales. The basis of the definition is land with an irreversibly urban use and it is independent of administrative area boundaries.

The definition appears as computer readable boundaries of all built up settlements with a minimum population of 1,000 and a minimum land area of 20 hectares.

The user can choose a settlement size above which land is treated as urban for their purposes. All settlements of over 10,000 are treated as urban areas.

Limitations:

The classification system is focused on definition of urban settlement and therefore can not be used for evaluation of rural areas.

7 Administrative Area Classification Definition: Office of National Statistics, on behalf of the Office of The Deputy Prime Minister / DEFRA / Countryside Agency

The Countryside Agency classification of rural and urban administrative areas based on a range of socio-economic characteristics of the population at Local Authority and ward levels.

County level classification, based on the ward level classification, is recommended with the reservation that it should be used only where there is no other choice.

Limitations:

At a high geographical level it is less meaningful to describe an area as urban or rural, so this definition has limited use.

8 DEFRA Classification of Local Authority Districts / Unitary Authorities in England

The DEFRA approach adopts different methodologies designed to reflect the numerical significance of settlement size in different administrative area frameworks.

The classification provides a 6-fold grouping of districts:

  • Major Urban
  • Large Urban
  • Other Urban
  • Significant Rural
  • Rural - 50
  • Rural - 80

These six classes represent the 'core' or 'most purposes' level of the classification. However, the 6-fold grouping can be aggregated or disaggregated further. The six classes can be aggregated to three classes: 'Predominantly Urban' (Major, Large and Other Urban), 'Significant Rural' and 'Predominantly Rural' (Rural-50 and Rural-80).

Limitations:

DEFRA's classification system should not be regarded as a definition of the level of rurality within Local Authority Districts. This term is reserved for the level of rurality at smaller geographic scales.

Both methods are seen as a tool for the purposes of presenting and analysing data that are only available at Local Authority District level on a comprehensive national basis. The classification is not usually used to inform detailed policy design by local government or agencies e.g. for targeting local service delivery.

9 Local Government Finance 'Sparcity' Measures

A by-product of the formulae used to determine central government support to Local Authorities.

The system uses the notion of low levels of habitation relative to land area as a measure of sparcity based on aggregating Enumeration District ( ED) resident populations, classifying them by their sparcity and grouping into Local Authority units.

Benefits:

This measure could be used as an effective discriminator between rural and non-rural authorities and help towards reproducing classifications determined by methods on socio-demographic measures.

Limitations:

This method is rarely used for measuring rurality - possibly due to lack of knowledge of the system or preference for other classification systems.

REST OF THE UK URBAN RURAL SYSTEMS (LEGACY SYSTEMS)

England and Wales

All systems in this section apply to England and Wales as a whole.

10 ONS Area Classification - District Level Clusters

Based on census material and Local Authority administrative boundaries using socio-demographic variables to define areas. Areas are defined as 'families':

  • Rural*
  • Alongside Urban Fringe
  • Coast & Services
  • Prosperous England
  • Mining Manufacturing & Industry
  • Education Centres and Outer London
  • Inner London.

*Rural family is then broken down into Rural Amenity (A) and Remoter Rural (B).

The method is based on creating 'similar profiles' drawn from a range of social, economic, demographic and housing variables.

Limitations:

Not designed to define urban or rural areas. Rural clusters are only produced because their members share similar profiles on the selected range of social, economic, demographic and housing variables and that, taken together (and when represented on a map), these members 'appear' to an informed observer to be 'rural'. Some users have, however, used them as such. This is more a result of the way the families and groups have been named (providing a likely choice for someone in search of a definition), than an indication that the classifications are seen as suitable means of defining urban and rural areas.

11 ONS Area Classification - Ward Level Clusters

This approach has a ward variant that complements the Local Authority classification described in District Level Clusters.

This method includes a slightly larger population and area in comparison with the Local Authority scale described in the District Cluster method.

The method is based on creating 'similar profiles' drawn from a range of social, economic, demographic and housing variables.

Limitations:

This classification was not designed to define urban or rural areas. Rural clusters are only produced because their members share similar profiles on the selected range of social, economic, demographic and housing variables and therefore 'appear' to an informed observer to be rural by being 'named' rural. Some users have, however, used them as such.

12 Countryside Agency Rural Services Survey Parishes

An urban settlement population of 10,000 has been used in the past by the Rural Development Commission and by the Countryside Agency as a broad threshold value distinguishing urban settlements from smaller 'rural' settlements and the remaining rural land.

Limitations:

There is little contemporary data collected for these units outside of the Rural Services Surveys and the system of agricultural returns. Much of the contextual social and economic data dates back to the 1991 census which would prove inaccurate given that this data is now nearly two decades old.

NON URBAN RURAL SYSTEMS (CURRENT SYSTEMS)

13 PAF (Postcode Address File)

Based on the Royal Mail's database of all known UK postcodes and addresses. It is the master database containing complete postcode and address information for over 28 million UK addresses. It is a relational raw data product (this means that it contains grouped or related address data, as well as Mailsort codes and Delivery Point Suffix data).

Within the PAF, a 'locality' is a geographical postal area - currently PAF defines around 30,000 localities within the UK. A locality consists of a post town with 'dependent locality' and 'double dependent' locality, further defining the geographic area where required. A double dependent locality is a small village or sub-district. Double dependent localities are never present in postal addresses without Dependent Localities.

Benefits:

The PAF database provides comprehensive coverage of the UK with classification of areas available to a very detailed, localised level.

Limitations:

This database was not designed to delineate between urban and rural areas.

However, the use of 'double dependent localities' may aid researchers in finding more 'rural' locations versus urban town or city based populations.

14 ACORN / MOSAIC Geodemographic Segmentation

Geodemographic segmentation systems such as ACORN and MOSAIC, use a multivariate statistical classification technique for discovering whether the individuals of a population fall into different groups by making quantitative comparisons of multiple characteristics. This comes with the assumption that the differences within any group should be less than the differences between groups.

A Classification Of Residential Neighbourhoods ( ACORN) system: is conducted by Consolidated Analysis Centers Incorporated ( CACI). It is a popular geodemographic tool to identify and understand the UK population and the demand for products and services.

ACORN categorizes all 1.9 million UK postcodes using over 125 demographic statistics within England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and employing 287 lifestyle variables. The classification system of ACORN contains 56 types of household under the 14 groups in 5 categories.

MOSAICUK is the latest version of Experian's MOSAIC classification that covers the UK's 46 million adult residents and 23 million households and uses 400 demographic variables. It classifies all consumers in the UK into 61 socio-economic types aggregated into 11 groups. The system is also very popular as a tool for identifying societal consumer trends in the UK.

Benefits:

The use of geographic segmentation system allows access to a wide range of readily available data which has full UK coverage, with the facility to 'drill down' to local levels.

Limitations:

These systems are designed to identify social profiles and are not focused solely on urban / rural splits. They may be used as general indications of urbanity, but is more limited with rurality definitions.

15 SIMD (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation)

The SIMD was designed with the purpose of identifying area concentrations of multiple deprivation across all of Scotland. It provides a 'scale' of deprivation. The SIMD is an area based measure it does not pick out deprived individuals - not all deprived people live in the most deprived areas, and not all those living in deprived areas are deprived.

Presented at data zone level, enabling small pockets of deprivation to be identified. The data zones, which have a median population size of 769, are ranked from most deprived (1) to least deprived (6,505) on the overall SIMD and on each of the individual domains. The result is a comprehensive picture of relative area deprivation across Scotland.

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2006 combines 37 indicators across 7 domains, namely: current income, employment, health, education, skills and training, housing, geographic access and crime.

The overall index is a weighted sum of the seven domain scores. The weighting for each domain is based on the relative importance of the domain in measuring multiple deprivation, the robustness of the data and the time lag between data collection and the production of the SIMD. The domain weightings are subject to sensitivity analysis to assess the effects of any changes in weights on the overall index ranks.

The Scottish Government will publish the next update of the SIMD in October 2009 and is continuing to develop guidance and promote the correct use of the index as it is not appropriate to use in all situations.

Benefits:

It allows effective targeting of policies and funding where the aim is to wholly or partly tackle or take account of area concentrations of multiple deprivation.

Limitations:

It should be noted that SIMD has been designed to identify area concentrations of multiple deprivation. Where other aspects of deprivation, e.g. individual or rural, are of interest then other methods need to be used. SIMD 2006 is an update with improvements on SIMD 2004 and uses the same geographical base as the SIMD 2004 of data zones. Because the SIMD is a relative scale it cannot be used to make absolute comparisons over time, but individual indicators and the employment domain can be used.