Britons cling to urban life

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH are still sticking together. Despite decades of supposed decentralisation, a new study has revealed that recent shifts between town and country have done little to dent Britain's 'traditionally high level of overall population concentration'.

In data published this week in the government's Population Trends journal, research by the University of Newcastle's housing and society group reveals that Britain's population is bucking the international trend of population deconcentration that occurred during the 1970s.

Demographers Tony Champion and Daniel Dorling in the Newcastle study reveal that three in every five people live in Briatin's recognised metropolitan regions. For their study they used compact regions naturally defined in terms of housing, jobs and shopping. Such regions accounted for 33 million inhabitants, living in only 6 per cent of the national territory.

Rural areas, accounting for barely 5 per cent of the population, were spread over a third of the land area.

The study stated: 'This high level of concentration persists in 1991 (the year of the last national census) despite three decades of significant population decentralisation in Britain.'

London, expected to have experienced substantially greater population losses due to its size and economic domination, has neverthless held its position. The capital's 7.8 million now accounts for one in seven of all residents in Britain, and is more than five times the size of Birmingham on 1.4 million.

The growth areas between 1981-91 identified in the study were led by Milton Keynes with 37 per cent, followed by Horsham, Peterborough, Bracknell, Huntingdon and Newton Abbot.

Population change for Britain's functional regions 1951-1991; published in Population Trends (Government Statistical Service); HMSO; pounds 8.35.