Rural Needs

The Rural Needs Act provides a statutory duty on public authorities to “have due regard to rural needs” in the development and delivery of strategies and policies.

The Rural Needs Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

The commencement of the Act is on a phased approach, beginning with all government departments and local councils from 1 June 2017 and for the remaining specified public authorities from 1 June 2018. 

What does ‘rural needs’ mean?

The Act defines ‘rural needs’ as “the social and economic needs of rural areas”.  In general terms, a need can be considered to be something that is essential to achieving a standard of living comparable with that of the population in general.  It can relate to the ability to access key publicly provided services such as health and education, the ability to access suitable employment opportunities, and the ability to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle. 

To ‘have due regard’ means that a public authority must consciously consider the needs of people in rural areas.  How much ‘due regard’ will depend on the circumstances and, in particular, on the relevance of rural needs to the decision or function in question.  The greater the relevance and potential impact for people in rural needs, the greater the regard required by the duty.

Guidance on Rural Proofing

DAERA has developed guidance notes on rural proofing, a process through which public authorities can meet their obligations under the Act.  A rural needs assessment template is also available.   

Training on Rural Needs

An e-learning package has also been developed to assist public authorities.  NICS staff can access this training through CAL’s course catalogue on HR Connect.  For staff in public authorities, a copy of the ‘Rural Proofing’ e-learning training package is available at no charge to your organisation from the Rural Development Council ( 028 8676 6980). 

Further advice

While individual departments are ultimately responsible for meeting their obligations under the Act, DAERA provides a support and advice service to Departments on the rural proofing process.  DAERA also has a rural statistics page which is a useful source of information. 

Contact details
Tel: 028 9052 4107




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