Despite its importance for rural policy analysis and parish-level neighbourhood planning, options for future censuses could spell the end for data regarding rural populations.
Population census data may no longer be produced for parishes and there remains uncertainty about its availability for rural areas.
An ONS consultation document asks for views about two options for population censuses.
One option would be to continue with a survey of every household in 2021 – mainly to be completed online.
The other option would abandon the traditional approach and instead use existing administrative records topped up by an annual survey of 4% of households.
The alternative option would allow some statistics, such as those for local authority areas, to be produced on an annual basis.
But it would also mean the loss of much Census data for small areas.
ONS statisticians confirmed that statistics would no longer be available for smaller parishes under the alternative option during an event in London.
It also remains unclear how far it would be possible to produce census statistics for the rural definition.
The Rural Services Network will be responding to the consultation document and will shortly ask its membership for their views.
Network chief executive Graham Biggs said: "It's a technical, but important issue important that as many rural interests as possible give their views to ONS."
Network members wishing to submit their own response should do so by 13 December deadline. Some consultation events are also being arranged.
RSN research director Brian Wilson said: "It may be that the best solution is a combination of the two options."
This could see a full census to retain small area statistics and the better use of administrative data to provide more up-to-date figures in between censuses.