Urban Core Revival: Borough-level Population Data Corroborate Appeal of City Centre Living – London

As extensively analysed in the Cities’ most recent strategy briefing “Urban Core Revival: Drivers, In-depth Look at Cities and Implications for Businesses”, the beginning of the 21st century brought forth a resurgence in population growth in metropolitan core cities across the developed world. An even more detailed analysis – at a borough level within core cities of preeminent global metropolises – reveals that people are not drawn uniformly to all of the urban core neighbourhoods, but rather prefer residing in centrally located areas.

Population Growth per Borough in Greater London: 2006-2016

map of population growth by greater london borough 2006-2016

Sources: Euromonitor International (population data); Gillard, Emily (EDINA) at ShareGeo Open (Greater London map)

Source: Euromonitor International

Note: Inner London includes 14 boroughs (City of London, Camden, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster); Outer London includes 19 boroughs (Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton, Waltham Forest).

Diving deeper: Greater London

In Greater London, more than half of inner boroughs as opposed to around a third of outer boroughs experienced population growth of 15%+ in 2006-2016. Three of the fastest growing boroughs city-wide, namely Tower Hamlets, Newham and Westminster (in that order), are located within Inner London. In particular, a contributing factor in Tower Hamlets’ ascent has been the launch (in 1987) and subsequent development (until today) of Canary Wharf, a thriving financial hub redeveloped from London’s old port to eventually rival the traditional player, the City of London to the west. Meanwhile, Newham is the only inner borough to join the ranks of Greater London’s most populous ones by 2016. Its impressive population growth was driven by immigration and buoyant natality, as well as regeneration ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Population decline in two of London’s inner boroughs since 2006, namely the City of London (-2.6%) and Kensington and Chelsea (-1.1%) is not the sign of these areas’ poor appeal for residential living. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. In the City, home to merely 7,300 residents in 2016, there is an entrenched institutional resistance towards residential development as the local authority fears meeting the demands of a large resident community will jeopardise the City’s success in clustering corporate financial giants. However, British developers recognise there is latent demand: the City’s first housing project in over 30 years, the 36-storey Heron saw 70% of its apartments sold two years before completion in 2013. Meanwhile, the UK’s wealthiest borough, Kensington and Chelsea is swept by the trend of its highly sought after properties being bought by international buyers for investment rather than residential purposes. As such, one of the most densely populated local authorities in the country is seeing its resident population pushed away amid an affordability crisis perpetuated by scores of empty homes belonging to the super-rich from abroad.