New figures confirm that England's population is shifting remorselessly to the south

The closest we could find to a motorway sign pointing to "the South". Image: Wikimedia Commons.

England’s population is shifting further south, according to the latest official population projections. The overall population is growing fast, and growing almost everywhere – but the growth is disproportionately in London and the South East.

The Office for National Statistics “Sub-national Population Projections” (SNPP) are the first local breakdown of the official 2014 projection for England’s growth. Today’s new figures – and the household projections that will later be based on them – are hugely important for planning. They frame the debate on where we need to build more homes, and will eventually feed through to the housing targets set in local plans.

The last breakdown, two years ago, projected growth almost everywhere, but disproportionately in the South East. These latest projections confirm this trend. There are projected to be 7.1m more people in England in 20 years time, 13 per cent more than now. But London is shown growing by 21 per cent while Greater Manchester grows only 10.2 per cent.


If these projections are correct then the capital would account for over a quarter of all England’s new population, while Greater Manchester’s share of the national population would fall.

These are trend-based projections, not forecasts and do not take account of policy decisions – Greater Manchester is currently reviewing its housing targets, and a more ambitious growth plan could help it keep up with national growth rates.

While the overall pattern is a shift in the balance of population to the South, there are plenty of exceptions, with the Midlands also showing strong growth. Corby and Coventry are both projected to grow by more than 1 per cent a year for the next 20 years.

Of particular interest to planners is how these projections differ from the previous ones (these are based on trends in the 2014 data; the last were 2012-based). Here the picture is more mixed with growth revised up or down across the country.

In the map below, while almost everywhere is growing, the pink areas show areas where those growth projections have been scaled down; blue is where the projected growth has been raised.

The fastest-growing district, Tower Hamlets in London, has also had the biggest upward revision of its growth, with a projected increase of 35 per cent in the next 20 years, compared to 30 per cent previously projected. The population of the fastest shrinking district (Barrow-in-Furness) is now projected to fall by 8 per cent rather than 4 per cent.

In between these extremes the pattern is very varied, with the biggest proportional reductions in growth projections coming in East Cambridgeshire, Swindon and Slough. The north-south population shift is still progressing rapidly, but on these projections it is not accelerating.

DCLG plans to bring forward the household projections that are based on these population projections, with publication possibly this summer. I previously discussed household projections and their implications here.

Barney Stringer is a director of regeneration consultancy Quod, who writes about cities, economics and infrastructure. This article was originally posted on his blog here.

 
 
 
 

What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.


Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.