The historic population drift towards the south of England has been reversed after 70 years.
During the depression of the 1930s, workers in northern industrial towns began moving south in search of jobs, a trend that continued for the rest of the century. But the Office for National Statistics said yesterday that the population movement had reversed.
After decades of falls, the population living in areas outside the South grew by a few thousand in 2001, by more than 20,000 in 2002 and by 35,000 in 2003. In particular, the North-west, Yorkshire and Wales have seen their populations grow between 2000 and 2003.
The ONS described the 2003 rise as unprecedented since records began. It suggested that the reverse had been prompted by the growing economic prosperity of northern regions.
Although the population of major cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool continues to decline, the falls are more than offset by the population growth in such areas as Lincolnshire, the north Lancashire coast, the rural Pennines and East and West Yorkshire.
Most areas of London and some of the Home Counties have declining populations.