Ribble Valley district

This summary offers a snapshot of some of the most important economic, social and environmental factors in Ribble Valley district with links through to the source information. The information has been allocated to one of seven themes: Map of Ribble Valley borough

  1. Children and Young People
  2. People and Communities
  3. Economic Development
  4. Community Safety
  5. Environment and Transport
  6. Health and Wellbeing
  7. Older People


Ribble Valley is in East Lancashire and in geographic terms is the largest in Lancashire covering 583 square kilometres and has 26 wards for which Census 2021 profiles are available. These appear as starter pages showing just the population, but around 30 Census topics can be added. The rural nature of the area however means that the number of people per km² that is the lowest in the county and only a third of England and Wales average. From an historic point of view there have been dramatic changes and the pace of future change is liable to increase.  

  1. Children and Young People

Key stage 4 covers the two years of school education that incorporates GCSEs in maintained schools. A new secondary school GCSE accountability system was implemented in 2016, in which 'Attainment 8' measures achievement in maths and English plus other subjects with less weighting. The 2021/22 score was a very substantial 52.1 in Ribble Valley district. This was well ahead of the average of 47.6 for the Lancashire County Council area. At Key stage 1 a good percentage of year 1 and 2 pupils attained the expected standard in 2021/22 in all four of the subjects: Reading, Writing, Mathematics and Science. The Department for Education achievement and attainment tables have more information on achievement at other levels. 

For young children and parents the county council's Children and Family Wellbeing Service has a search facility for local centres. The three in the district are the Clitheroe and Longridge Children and Family Wellbeing Services and the Longridge Young People's Centre.

There are 38 schools in Ribble Valley. Of these 30 are primary and six secondary. A full list of schools in Lancashire is available. Ofsted inspection reports and the GOV.UK web page on schools performance are useful sources of local information, although the latter is defined for Ribble Valley parliamentary constituency.

The county council's Young People's Service website has an activity and organisations search facility that lists a wide range of options for young people in each of the 12 districts within the county council area.

A relatively high number of families in Ribble Valley have an income level that led to them opting out of receiving child benefit. There were also relatively few children in low income families in the 2022/23 financial year with just 1,570.

Business Intelligence and Public Health analysts at Lancashire County Council have produced Child health profiles for districts in Lancashire, including both district and ward elements for Ribble Valley, and bringing together key indicators from Fingertips, the public health data collection from the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities (OHID).

  1. People and Communities

The overall population has seen strong growth for a number of years and has more than kept pace with increases at the county, regional and national levels. The mid 2022 population estimate for the authority was 63,107. One of the first Census outputs made available is an interactive tool that compares the 2021 results with 2011 for local authorities.

Local authority live births and deaths graphs are available that track changes in births and deaths since the 1980s for each authority in Lancashire. The graph for Ribble Valley reveals that deaths have exceeded live births in all but one year since the start of the 1980s. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic most districts, including Ribble Valley, had more deaths than births in 2020, but in Ribble Valley the margin was more pronounced. The number of deaths in each month of 2021, 2022 and 2023 can be seen in the monthly mortality graph slide on the Lancashire Insight Covid-19 intelligence web page.

Graph of live births, deaths and difference between the two in Ribble Valley from 1981 onwards. In 2022 there were 475 live births and 586 deaths

The authority consistently records low fertility rates.

It is estimated that between 2018 and 2043 the population of Ribble Valley will increase by 13.3%, the third highest rise in Lancashire, and which is ahead of the growth rates predicted for the Lancashire-14 and Lancashire-12 areas, the North West and England (7.2%, 8.6%, 8.5% and 10.3%). The number of households is projected to grow by 21.4% between 2018 and 2043, also the third highest rate in Lancashire-14 (England = 16.2%). 

The median house prices to earnings ratio for Ribble Valley is the highest of the 14 Lancashire authorities.

Ribble Valley has the fewest dwellings of any Lancashire authority, but a very high proportion are either owner-occupied and privately rented. The district has the highest proportion of its housing stock in council tax bands E and above in Lancashire. There have been 3,340 net additional dwellings since 2011/12.

A total of 11.6% of Ribble Valley households were in fuel poverty in 2020, which was below the England average of 13.2%. In line with having the fewest dwellings, it had the fewest number of households in fuel poverty in the County (2,995). The main factors that determine this are the energy efficiency status of the property, the cost of energy and household income.

The 2019 Indices of Multiple Deprivation revealed that Ribble Valley was ranked within the top 50 least deprived areas out of 317 districts and unitary authorities in England, when measured by the rank of average rank and by three of the other four alternative measures. This was by far the best ranking in the Lancashire-14 authority area.

ONS has produced a set of residential-based area classifications using analysis of the 2011 Census. These are for very small statistical areas, but we have identified the most common groups for the electoral wards. Residents in eight of Ribble Valley's wards fit into the 'Rural Tenant's' group and those in another seven wards the 'Farming Communities' group. The groups which are dominant in three wards are 'Suburban Achievers' and 'Urban Professionals and Families' while 'Semi-Detached Suburbia' is dominant in two wards.

  1. Economic Development

There was a strong rate of increase in employee numbers in Ribble Valley in the decade to 2008, whilst between 2009 and 2014, employment in the authority saw a substantial decline of 11.7%. This was due to a large reduction of jobs classified to the wholesale sector. It would appear that this was an administrative change rather than a significant loss of local employment. The national and international nature of business can lead to the allocation of large numbers of people to paypoints that may be some distance from their actual place of work, and these people can then easily be reallocated to a different authority. This causes local distortions that have no actual impact on the real local economy. Since then the employment numbers have stayed around the lower value. In comparison to the national average, the district has a relatively high proportion of jobs in the private sector.              
The source of employee jobs in Ribble Valley is very heavily influenced by BAe. It has a much higher proportion of manufacturing jobs than the majority of authorities, mainly as a result of the aerospace industry, but also food and beverage producing employers such as the Thwaites brewery, which is now based at Mellor Brook. In contrast it has the lowest proportion of employment in the service sector in Lancashire. The structure of the local economy leads to a high jobs-density rate for the authority.  

The most recent winner of a Queen's Award for Enterprise is the metal stockholder, Metstok, of Holmes Mill, Clitheroe. The company won the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth in overseas sales in 2019, but was dissolved in 2021.

In October 2011, the government announced the creation of a single Lancashire enterprise zone that covers the two BAe sites in Lancashire at Samlesbury and Warton. The Samlesbury site is bisected by the boundary between Ribble Valley and South Ribble. Enterprise zones are areas where financial incentives and a simplified planning structure are designed to encourage businesses and create employment.

Our extensive employment records allow us to monitor the changes to employee numbers from 1929 onwards. We have published separate graphs for each of the 14 Lancashire local authorities that reveal changes in total employee numbers and the shift from manufacturing to service sector employment. Methodological changes, and assumptions for missing years, reduce the accuracy of the graphs, but they do give a useful broad indication of changes over time. The graph for Ribble Valley reveals the long-term increase in jobs in the authority. 

Graph of employee jobs in Ribble Valley from 1929 onwards showing relative share between manufacturing, services and other industries

Ribble Valley has by far the largest number of farm holdings in the county, 626 or 17.8% of the county total. Cattle and sheep are the dominant livestock. Well over a thousand people are employed in agriculture. The financial returns in a number of agricultural sectors have forced many farm enterprises to look more carefully at diversification as a means of improving the viability of their core farm businesses. In some cases this can take the form of developing non-agricultural activities such as the provision of accommodation, facilities to encourage tourism visits or the hosting of weddings and other events. Diversification can also be achieved by moving into organic production, both of livestock and crops, or offering innovative new uses for former farm land or buildings, such as at the Backridge Farm Business Centre in Bashall Eaves.

The 2011 census indicated that 4,175 or a substantial 14.4% of Ribble Valley's working residents aged 16+ work mainly at or from home. This is the highest percentage in Lancashire and is in excess of the regional and national averages. Agriculture is very important to the local economy so farmers will represent an important proportion of this total. Owners of guest-houses and pub landlords are two other traditional sectors for home-based workers. These are nowadays supplemented by those who can take advantage of new ways of working brought about by information technology. In contrast, the authority does have some larger than normal proportions of the working population who commute long distances. The census also highlights the commuter flows between authorities.  

The authority also has a history of high overall employment rates.  

In 2023 there were 3,565 active enterprises in Ribble Valley. 91% of enterprises had fewer than ten employees. There were a further 330 small and medium enterprises, with under 250 employees, but only around five with over 250. The authority contains a number of well-established local employers. 

The UK government properties database is a searchable list of all UK government property holdings and land assets. The web page for the North West region lists land and properties by towns including those in Clitheroe. 

Average earnings in Ribble Valley in 2019 were the 2nd highest in Lancashire when measured by place of residence or work, with only £1 difference between the two measures. 

The survey of personal incomes by HM Revenue and customs broadly includes all individuals whose income is higher than the prevailing personal tax allowance and who are therefore liable to tax. The median results are the middle value that best reflects typical income and they show a result for Ribble Valley that is above the Lancashire-12 and North West averages. 

There is a low number of employment and support allowance claimants, and the housing benefit claimant numbers are small. In comparison to the national average, there is a low percentage of the working age population that is reliant on welfare benefits.

  1. Community Safety

The recorded crime article highlights the fact that Ribble Valley has the lowest crime rate in the Lancashire-14 area. See the LG Inform Quarterly Report on Crime and Disorder by Local Authority.

For more details on community safety in your neighbourhood, please enter your postcode or ward into the window in the Local area community safety statistics web page.

Alcohol is known to contribute to offending behaviour, particularly violence, anti-social behaviour and criminal damage.  Residents in the authority are significantly better or not significantly different to the national average for most indicators, according to the LAPE (Local Alcohol Profiles for England).

The numbers of people killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions in Ribble Valley was 44 in 2021.    

  1. Environment and Transport

Transport has a key role to play in realising the economic potential of an area by unlocking key locations, such as the existing and new locations referred to in the economy section.  Using sustainable transport modes can significantly improve employment opportunities and life chances. In urban areas the reliance on the car presents problems of traffic congestion and reduced air quality. The predominantly rural and upland nature of much of the authority means that it includes areas with some of the finest air quality in England.

The East Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan is the strategic transport document for the wider area and contains references to transport issues in the authority.

Other than the A59 running east to Yorkshire and west to Preston the road network is predominantly 'B' roads.  

The Department for Transport website has an interactive map that lists the traffic flows at hundreds of sites across all of the Lancashire County Council area.

The authority has four railway stations, Clitheroe, Langho, Ramsgreave and Wilpshire, and Whalley, which are served by Clitheroe to Manchester trains. 

Maps are available that reveal the various rural-urban definitions across Lancashire down to the very small census output area level.

The National Biodiversity Network Gateway acts as a “data warehouse” for biodiversity information, which can be quickly and easily accessed to understand the distribution of particular species in the UK. Much of the local data is supplied by the Lancashire Environment Record Network (LERN), which is hosted by Lancashire County Council. An interactive map on this site shows the extent of the Environmental Record Centre coverage, including the LERN area, and when adding a species using the 'Add to Map' control, records of their sightings are displayed.

Green belts have been an enduring element of national planning policy. They check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas; prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another; assist in safeguarding the countryside, preserve the character of historic towns and encourage the recycling of derelict and other urban land. Ribble Valley has a very low proportion of land designated as green belt

A substantial part of the rural area of the authority is classified as part of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Beauty

In June 2013, the coronation meadows project was announced to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen's Coronation. A large number of meadows across the country were initially identified as flagship wild flower sites that could provide seed for the creation of new meadows, and Ribble Valley has three sites. The first designated meadow in Lancashire is near Slaidburn, which was subsequently followed by one at Newton in Bowland and a further site at the Inn at Whitewell,  

In general Forestry England has a small presence in Lancashire in terms of the forests they own and manage but their website does mention Gisburn Forest which, covering 1,245 hectares, is the largest forest in Lancashire.

Plantlife is an organisation that promotes wild flowers, plants and fungi. Their website details 150 Important Plant Areas: areas of landscape identified as being of the highest botanical importance, and home to internationally important wild plant populations. The list includes Stocks reservoir near Slaidburn which borders Gisburn Forest. 

Lancashire County Council supports a various projects in district authorities via a range of grants and funding options.

Common land may be owned by one or more people, but it is land over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to graze livestock, collect firewood, or cut turf for fuel.  There are 550,000 hectares of registered common land in England and Wales and the 14 Lancashire local authorities account for 8,427 hectares, or 1.5% of the national total. The database of registered common land in England lists all sites by local authority boundary. Ribble Valley is one of three Lancashire authorities that account for a significant proportion of the county's common land.  

Carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas believed to be contributing to global warming. Total carbon dioxide emissions, as measured from point of source, are very high in the Ribble Valley. The rate per head is far above the national level as a result of a single major emitter in the form of a large cement works. The works is also a major source of atmospheric pollutants nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide.

The rates of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting have in general been improving over the years as sharp increases in Landfill Tax have made the traditional form of Landfill disposal much more expensive. The household waste reuse, recycling and composting rate in Ribble Valley (37.6%) however was below the national rate in 2021/22.  

The legacy of former mine workings in the area was highlighted in 2015, when the coal authority published development risk plans and specific risk plans that included a set for Ribble Valley district.

  1. Health and Wellbeing

With a health index score of 122 in 2020 Ribble Valley is in 2nd highest place among English local authorities behind Hart in Hampshire.

Figures for life expectancy at birth reveal that Ribble Valley had male expectancy that had risen above the national figure but the female figure had dropped back to around the same as the England figure. The following graph reveals life expectancy changes in the authority, and for England, by three-year time periods from 1991-93 onwards. 

Life expectancy at birth, Ribble Valley graph    

The Ribble Valley Health Profile, published by Public Health England, reveals that the health of people in the area is generally better than the England average.

The 2015 health behaviours summary report (PDF 446 KB) and lifestyle survey findings (PDF 957 KB) for Ribble Valley provide further details on lifestyle behaviours such as smoking, drinking, substance use, physical activity, nutrition, excess weight and wellbeing.

In July 2022 Integrated Care Boards replaced the much smaller Clinical Commissioning Groups as clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for their local area, including the majority of the hospital and community NHS services. Together with their associated Integrated Care Partnerships, which includes representatives from the upper tier local authorities responsible for social care and public health, they form Integrated Care Systems (ICS). The single ICS covering the whole of the Lancashire-14 area is the Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS. That web page has a link to a glossary of the terms used and there is a further explanation on a Kings Fund web page

There are numerous health centres and clinics, including Clitheroe Community Hospital. The hospital has two wards providing 24 hour nursing care to people requiring rehabilitation, post operative nursing care, ongoing medical care, palliative care and blood transfusions. Main hospital services are provided by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust

Private sector healthcare facilities in the area are represented by the Gisburne Park Hospital.

The local government association has produced 'housing, health and wellbeing profiles' for each local authority across the country. The figures go down to the ward level, and the Ribble Valley profile has results from the census, the index of multiple deprivation and other data sources.

Public Health England has produced Cardiovascular disease profiles for each of the former clinical commissioning groups in England, in this case NHS East Lancashire CCG and NHS Greater Preston CCG. There are separate reports for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

  1. Older People

It has been well documented over recent years that people are living longer and that the older age-groups will record some dramatic increases over future years, with associated financial implications and demand for health and social care services. By 2043, the population aged 65 or over in Ribble Valley is projected to increase to 21,808.  

Some of the rural areas in the authority have relatively high percentages of State Pension claimants, but for the county as a whole, the highest concentrations are found in selected areas along the coast. Pension Credit is for pensioners at the lower end of the income scale and the caseload in Ribble Valley is by far the lowest number in Lancashire.

Attendance Allowance provides financial help to people aged 65 or over who are physically or mentally disabled. The caseload in Ribble Valley in August 2023 was around 1,730.

Life expectancy, as mentioned earlier, is increasing but there is no guarantee that the extra years of life will necessarily equate to extra years of healthy life expectancy. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that "extra" years of life expectancy should necessarily lead to additional years with ill health or disability. More suitable community services to enable independent living and more effective practice of preventive lifestyles and medicine has the potential to lengthen disability-free life expectancy, particularly in the case of the prevention and treatment of non-fatal but disabling diseases.

The Lancashire Care Homes Association is an organisation that represents care providers across the broader Lancashire area. The website lists a large number of care and nursing homes, along with domiciliary care agencies in the area. The details are listed to by major urban localities across the county.   

Page updated 8 May 2024