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POPULATION DENSITY, CHANGE AND CONCENTRATION IN BRITAIN

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A new study suggests that since 1901, the 'centre of gravity' or balancing point of Britain's population has moved ...
A new study suggests that since 1901, the 'centre of gravity' or balancing point of Britain's population has moved steadily southward and slightly eastward from Rodsley in Derbyshire reaching Newhall in Swadlincote by 1971 and then Overseal in Leicestershire by 1991.

In 90 years it has moved 26 kilometres.

It is one of several analyses of changes in population distribution in Britain since 1971 contained in the study published today by OPCS*.

The main purpose of the study, by Daniel Dorling and David Atkins of Newcastle University, is to describe, using population changes and population density, how the distribution of population between local areas in which people live in Britain has altered over the last two decades.

Data from the 1971, 1981, and 1991 Censuses of Population are combined for a large set of small areas to measure and chart these local changes. The study also shows how new mapping and statistical techniques can illustrate the comparison of population characteristics over time and across many small areas.

Findings from the study show that:

- Many local population densities (persons per hectare or sq.km), have fallen over the last 20 years so that the population of Britain has become more dispersed.

Nevertheless, the majority of people still live in wards which make up only a tiny fraction of the land.

In 1971 in Britain 50% of the population were concentrated in local government wards which made up only 2.5% of the country's total land area; this had fallen to 43% in 1991

- This deconcentration has not occurred evenly over space and time. Over the last two decades the biggest decrease in population has taken place in the most densely populated wards.

- In particular in 1971, 10% of the population lived in wards with densities of 74 persons per hectare and upwards; by 1991 there had been a net loss of over a million people - mostly in the 1970s - from these wards and less than 8% of an increased population of Britain lived in them

- On the other hand the biggest net gains were in the wards which in 1991 were at the lower end of the density scale. Overall, wards with densities in 1971 of 10 persons per hectare or less had a 25% increase in their populations

- The changes, whether increases or decreases in the population, were considerably less in the 1980s than the 1970s

- An historical table of the populations of eleven broad groupings of current local authorities is given in the study. The most dramatic contrast is between population changes in what is now inner and outer London.

In almost every decade up to 1961 outer London grew in population by between 1 and 3% per year whereas inner London has generally lost population, the rate almost reaching 2% per year by 1981. But this pattern was very different between 1981 and 1991.

By the end of that period the population of inner London was increasing more rapidly than was the population of outer London.

Population density, change and concentration in Great Britain 1971, 1981 and 1991 Studies on Medical and Population Subjects No.58. HMSO £14 net. ISBN 0 11 691628 1.

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