Counties on the fringe of the Washington metropolitan area have been growing recently at a faster pace than the metropolitan area itself, a new study by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments shows.

The number of housing construction permits taken out by builders in fringe counties increased 29 percent between 1972 and 1977 over permits in the 1966-71 period, COG found. The District and its surrounding counties had a 21 percent decline in permits during the same periods.

The metropolitan area's core jurisdictions are the District, Arlington County and Alexandria, COG said. Established suburban jurisdictions include Montgomery, Prince Georges, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties.

COG considers these Maryland counties to be outer suburban jurisdictions of the Washington area: Frederick, Howard, Anne Arundel, Charles and Calvert. St Mary's and Washington counties are considered "exurban" to the Washington area.

In Virginia, King George, Stafford, Fauquier, Culpeper, Clarke and Frederick counties are considered exurban, as is the city of Fredericksburg. Also included in Jefferson County, W. Va.

Bruce Steele, chief of housing programs of the COG, said that the main fringe growth took place in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, where the fast-growing Washington-Baltimore corridor and Annapolis area are located.

The growth percentage in Howard and Anne Arundel areas becomes a "special case," Steel said.

COG said that the decline in permit activity took place in this area in both city and established sub-urban sections. The report noted a decline of 63 and 33 percent for the core and suburbs, respectively, in comparing 1960-65 and 1972-77 figures.

Authorizations for apartments accounted for much of the permit decline in this area, COG found.

Permit activity in fringe jurisdictions accounted for only 13 percent of the total permits issued in the region in 196-65 but rose to 36 percent of the total in 1972-77, COG said. Anne Arundel and Howard counties accounted for 68 percent of the growth in outer areas and nearly 50 percent of the total permits in the fringe counties during the past six years.

The exurban counties surged by 108 percent in the 1972-77 period over growth tabulated in 1960-65. "This makes the 'exurbs' the fastest-growing segment of the greater Washington region," the report noted.

But it was also pointed out that the collective level of permit activity for jurisdictions within the metro area far surpassed the volume of growth in fringe areas during the past 18 years. CAPTION: Map, no caption, By Dave Cook-The Washington Post