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.

 
 
 
 

Here’s how Henry Ford and IKEA could provide the key to solving the housing crisis

A flatpack house designed by architectural firm Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, on display at the Royal Academy, London, in 2013. Image: Getty.

For many people, the housing market is not a welcoming place. The rungs of the property ladder seem to get further and further out of reach. There are loud calls to build hundreds of thousands of new homes (and equally loud demands that they’re not built in anyone’s back yard).

If there was ever a time to introduce mass-produced affordable housing, surely that time is now.

The benefits of mass production have been well known since Henry Ford’s car factories made the Model T back in 1908. It was only made in one colour, black, for economic reasons. Not because it was the cheapest colour of paint, but because it was the colour that dried the quickest.

This allowed the production line to operate at faster, more cost effective, speeds. And ultimately, it meant the product could be sold at a more attractive cost to the customer.

This approach, where processes are tested to achieve increasingly efficient production costs, is yet to filter properly into the construction of houses. This makes sense in a way, as not everybody wants exactly the same type of house.

Historically, affordable mass-produced housing removed a large amount of customisations, to ensure final costs were controlled. But there is another way. Builders and architects have the ability to create housing that allows a level of flexibility and customisation, yet also achieves the goal of affordability.


Back in 2006, the “BoKlok” approach to affordable housing was launched to great acclaim in the UK. Literally translated from Swedish, the term means “live smart”. Originally created from a collaboration between flat-pack favourite IKEA and Swedish construction giant Skanska, the BoKlok housing approach was to allow for selected customisation to maximise individuality and choice for the customers. But at the same time, it ensured that larger house building components were duplicated or mass-produced, to bring down the overall costs.

Standard elements – wall panels, doors, windows – were made in large numbers to bring the elemental costs down. This approach ensured the costs were controlled from the initial sketch ideas through to the final design choices offered to the customers. The kitchens and bathrooms were designed to be flexible in terms of adding additional units. Draw and cupboard fronts interchangeable. Small options that provided flexibility, but did not impact on overall affordability.

It’s a simple approach that has worked very well. More than 10,000 BoKlok houses have now been built, mainly in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, with a small number in the UK.

But it is only part of the architectural equation. The affordable housing market is vital, but the cost of making these homes more adaptable is rarely considered.

Flexibility is key. The needs of a house’s inhabitants change. Families can grow (and shrink) and require more room, so the costs of moving house reappear. One clever response to this, in BoKlok homes, has been to allow “built in” flexibility.

Loft living

This flexibility could include a loft space that already has flooring and a built in cupboard on a lower floor which can be simply dismantled and replaced with a “flat-pack style” staircase that can be purchased and installed with minimal disruption to the existing fabric.

Weeks of builders removing walls, plastering and upheaval are replaced by a trip to the IKEA store to purchase the staircase and the booking of a subcontractor to fit it. The original design accounted for this “future option” and is built into the core of the house.

The best approach to new affordable housing should consider combinations of factors that look at design, materials and processes that have yet to be widely used in the affordable housing market.

And the construction sector needs to look over its shoulder at other market places – especially the one that Henry Ford dominated over a century ago. Today’s car manufacturers offer customised options in everything from colour to wheel size, interior gadgets to different kinds of headlamp. These options have all been accounted for in the construction and costing of each model.

The ConversationThey share a similar design “platform”, and by doing so, considerably reduce the overall cost of the base model. The benefit is quicker production with the added benefit of a cost model that allows for customisation to be included. It is a method the construction sector should adopt to produce housing where quality and affordability live happily together.

David Morton, Associate Professor in Architecture and Built Environment, Northumbria University, Newcastle.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.