A Compact City for the Wealthy? Continuing Inner London Gentrification and Impacts on Accessibility Inequalities

We have a new paper out in the Journal of Transport Geography- “A compact city for the wealthy? Employment accessibility inequalities between occupational classes in the London metropolitan region 2011“. The paper explores how the increasingly affluent nature of Inner London has improved sustainable travel opportunities for more affluent professional and management classes, while less affluent groups have increasingly been priced out to lower accessibility Outer London locations.

The Continuing Gentrification of Inner London
The gentrification of Inner London was first recorded by Ruth Glass back in the 1960s, with middle class residents moving into largely working class neighbourhoods as London’s economy began its long evolution from manufacturing towards service jobs. This process has continued for decades, ultimately transforming most of Inner London. In the 21st century, some researchers have argued that gentrification has stalled (perhaps because there are few neighbourhoods left to gentrify) or has entered a different phase (e.g. processes such as super-gentrification and new-build gentrification as discussed by Davidson and Lees).

This research uses the Standard Occupational Class data as the basis of measuring social class. This classification was found to correspond to differences in income, as well as to a distinct residential geography. In particular, the three most affluent groups (Management, Professional and Associate Professional) cluster together, resulting in the social geography we can see in the map below using the 2011 Census data. There is a clear clustering of professional classes in Inner-West London, with two prominent radial corridors extending northwards through Camden, Islington and Hampstead; and south-westwards through Kensington, Wandsworth and Richmond. Concentrations of non-professional groups are mainly in Outer London to the east, north-east and west, with only smaller pockets remaining in Inner London. This analysis largely matches the description of Inner London now being dominated by professional classes, with lower income groups increasingly in Outer London (with some exceptions remaining in Inner East and South-East London).

Professional Classes (Manag., Prof. & Assoc. Prof.) Residential Percentage 2011. Data: Census 2011 (Office for National Statistics, 2016).

As well as mapping the 2011 geography of occupational class, we looked at more recent changes to see if gentrification is continuing or has slowed, using the ONS Annual Population Survey. Analysing changes between 2006 and 2016, we found had substantial gentrification had continued in Inner London, as shown in the table below. The Management, Professional and Associate Professional groups all grew as a proportion of the Inner London population, while all other occupational classes fell proportionally (green cells are above the average for the metro region, and orange cells are below the average). Interestingly, the biggest growth was in the Management and Professional classes, rather than the younger Associate Professional class, arguably more in line with super-gentrification processes. In contrast, there are proportional increases in several lower income classes in Outer London.

Sub-Regional Occupational Class Percentage Point Change by Residence 2006–2016 (final 2016 sub-regional percentages in brackets)

We can also explore these changes at the more detailed level of local authorities, and show that even more dramatic changes are occurring at the local level. In the chart below, each Local Authority is shown as a trajectory connecting its position in 2006 to its position in 2016 in relation to the percentage of professional classes and the total working population. Generally, Inner Greater London Authority (GLA) boroughs experience high working population growth combined with large increases in the proportion of professional classes. Boroughs with a long history of gentrification, such as Camden and Islington, are higher up in the chart reaching 70% professional classes, while more recent gentrifiers, such as Lewisham and Southwark, are rapidly gentrifying from a lower base. Outer GLA boroughs also show substantial population growth but with lower levels of change in professional classes, and decline in some cases. The exceptions are mainly in South and South-West London, with Croydon, Sutton and Richmond all gentrifying. Outer Metropolitan Area (OMA) local authorities have a mixed picture, with some increases in professional occupational classes with minimal working population growth; while some lower income towns such as Luton and Harlow are not gentrifying.

Local Authority Trajectories for Combined Percentage of Professional Occupational Classes and Total Working Population for 2006 and 2016. Data Source: Annual Population Survey 2005–2017.

What Impacts Does Inner London Gentrification have on Accessibility to Jobs?
We would expect that the dominance of more affluent classes in Inner London translates into accessibility advantages for these classes, as Inner London has substantially better accessibility opportunities by public transport, walking and cycling. We were particularly interested in accessibility by more affordable travel modes in this research. Bus travel is in general considerably cheaper than other public transport options in London. This is reflected in higher rates of more affordable bus and walking trips by lower income classes in the 2011 Census data. We can see in the table below that the three lowest income classes (6, 7 & 9) have around three times higher rates of bus travel and two times higher rates of walking than the most affluent three classes (1, 2 & 3)-

We used network analysis to analyse accessibility differences (see working paper on accessibility model). The analysis was carried out using the 2011 census data. The box plot below shows the cumulative accessibility to jobs for 60 minutes travel by Car, Public Transport (all modes) and Bus Only for the occupational classes. We can see differences between classes, particularly for public transport and bus trips, though there is also much variation within each class.

GLA 60mins Cumulative Accessibility to Employment by SOC Groups: Absolute Results

The accessibility differences between occupational classes can be more clearly seen by plotting differences between how the average accessibility for each group varies from the average accessibility for the entire working population, as shown below. Note in this chart the accessibility differences are normalised by travel mode, so the differences between travel modes in the chart above are normalised in the chart below. We can see clear consistent accessibility advantages for the top three occupational classes, particularly for more affordable slower modes- walking and cycling. The remaining occupational classes have below average accessibility to jobs, particularly for the more car oriented Skilled Trades and Process groups.

Greater London Authority 60mins Cumulative Accessibility to Employment by SOC Groups: Relative Differences in Occupational Class Mode Means and Mode Means for Total Population

The results for bus and walking modes is a particular accessibility challenge. Accessibility by these more affordable modes is generally low in absolute terms outside of Inner London. For the bus mode, less than half the number of jobs are reachable at typical commute times compared to the full public transport network. Given that lower income groups are the most frequent bus and walking commuters, and that these classes are increasingly being priced out of Inner London, these limitations are a significant accessibility challenge going forward.

What Policies Can Planner follow to Mitigate this?
In terms of transport policy, this research supports efforts to improve the affordability and connectivity of public transport for lower income populations. This is indeed a priority of the current London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has committed to freezing public transport fares, and has reformed ticketing to allow multiple bus journeys on a single fare. These measures help offset travel costs for lower income residents in Outer London.

The main policy conclusion is the importance of housing policy in influencing accessibility outcomes in the study area. Low and moderate income groups are being priced out of public transport accessible areas. Without a step-change in the delivery of genuinely affordable housing in accessible locations, the increasing dominance of Inner London by professional classes will continue, resulting in greater accessibility inequalities, and likely increased travel costs for lower income classes.

Note on Covid-19 and Travel Inequalities
This research was completed in 2019, before the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has in the short term shut down public transport networks, and greatly disadvantaged millions of city residents around the world. Longer term it is possible that the pandemic will reduce the attraction of inner city areas such as Inner London, due to perceived risk of future pandemics as well as the acceleration of telecommuting and home-working trends. The overall effect could be to slow gentrification processes, although this is difficult to predict. The alternative view is that  London will recover and adapt as it has done following many crises in the past. East Asian metropolises offer a good model of how to built resilience following their response to the earlier SARS and MERS outbreaks.

The wider economic impacts are clearly also important. Certainly we are in line for a very large recession, hitting important sectors such as tourism and hospitality. More specifically in London, the recession may hit development viability for affordable housing, and is a real headache for public transport operators. Transport for London was in financial trouble before the crisis, and is currently dependent on government bailouts to keep running. This will likely curtail the ability of the Mayor to maintain lower public transport fares, and so impact the kind of transport accessibility inequalities this paper discusses.




Planning a Cycling Revolution for Post-Lockdown London

London and the UK as a whole have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, creating multiple health, social and economic crises. Social distancing requirements have drastically reduced the safe capacity of public transport services. The London Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have quickly responded with a radical plan for transforming Inner London into a walking and cycling city, with major streetspace reallocation and restrictions on car use. Where should this new active travel infrastructure be prioritised? Will it substantially change travel behaviour for the better? This article looks at plans for new cycling infrastructure in Inner London, and includes recent UCL research by Nicolas Palominos.

The Green Active Travel Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic
The concentration of people, activity and global connections in cities is normally their greatest asset, yet now is the source of acute risk and vulnerability during the coronavirus pandemic. Rail, metro and bus systems enable millions of daily trips to be made efficiently and sustainably, but their crowded nature is incompatible with social distancing. Recent estimates of how many passengers can safely use buses, trains and metro systems in London while enforcing a 2 metre social distancing rule are around 15% of full capacity. This restriction is devastating for transit cities to function, preventing people getting to work, school and basic services; as well as crippling the fares revenue for public transport providers. Although there are plausible scenarios where the 15% limit could be moderately relaxed (such as through mandatory mask-wearing and temperature screening, or an adjustment of the UK social distancing rules to 1.5m/1m) we are effectively looking at months (in the worst case years) with public transport operating at a severely reduced capacity.

With public transport now hampered for the short-to-medium term, there is a real danger that there will be a big increase in car use as lockdown restrictions are eased, undoing much of the recent progress towards sustainable cities and tackling urban problems of congestion, poor air quality, carbon emissions and obesity. The alternative is to dramatically increase walking and cycling through a major reallocation of street space to these active travel modes. Measures for new cycle and pedestrian lanes have recently been proposed by many cities including Milan, Paris, Brussels and Bogota, and are being widely discussed in many more. The aim is to provide safe and healthy travel alternatives to increased car use, and to enable cities to continue to function with public transport restrictions. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has joined these progressive cities by advocating an active travel transformation for London with the Streetspace for London plan.

London’s Fragmented Cycle Routes
Cities that have achieved very high rates of cycling, such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, have done so with comprehensive networks of segregated cycle lanes, allowing all residents to cycle safely, not just experienced cyclists. London has been struggling to catch up with these cities, and still has a fragmented and incomplete network of cycle lanes. The map below shows Inner London cycle lane data in 2019. The dark blue lines are physically segregated cycle lanes (i.e. a physical barrier between the cycle lane and the road). These are mainly found on CS2 (Cycle Superhighway 2) in East London, CS3 (the only complete East-West route through Central London), and parts of CW6 (Cycleway 6) which is the main north-south link across Blackfriars Bridge that has some sections in Central London that are still under construction.

Outside of these segregated routes there is a scattered patchwork of cycle lanes that are based on road markings without a physical barrier with the carriageway, shown in light blue on the map. There are also bus lanes on many major roads (dark red on the map) which offer some protection for cyclists, but are a long way from the safety of fully segregated lanes. Overall Inner London’s cycle network has many gaps that need filled, particularly in Central, West, North-West, North-East and South-East London. This infrastructure gap sits in sharp contrast to the aim of drastically increasing cycling during the post-lockdown period. The lack of segregated routes increases the risk of cycle collisions with cars, and will discourage public transport users from making the switch to cycling.

The Proposals from the Mayor and TfL
In the Streetspace for London plan, the Mayor has proposed developing a network of new walking and cycling routes to allow Londoners to walk and cycle while social distancing, and to redirect public transport trips to active travel rather than driving. Cycling will be critical for public transport substitution, as most tube and bus journeys are 4-10km, considerably longer than typical walking distances (discussed more below). Given the fragmented nature of current cycle routes, major changes and interventions are required to achieve these aims.

The highly ambitious nature of the proposals were made clear last week with a major plan for new Car Free routes to be introduced in the City of London (below). This plan would transform many of London’s busiest roads into bus, cycling and walking corridors, radically improving cycle access across Central London, particularly to major rail stations. It includes:

  • Completing Cycleway 6 with a car free Farringdon Road leading to Kings Cross Station;
  • A car free Waterloo Bridge, leading to a whole new car free north-south route via Kingsway and Southampton Row to Euston Station;
  • A car free London Bridge, leading to two segregated routes, the first via Bank to Moorgate, and and the second via Bisohopsgate to Liverpool Street station;
  • Upgraded east-west routes, with a car free Theobalds Road to Old Street; and improved cycle provision on High Holborn and Cheapside (could this be extended west to Oxford Street, and east to meet Cycleway 2 at Aldgate?);

These proposals show a comprehensive commitment to the active travel plan, and include major restrictions on driving to make this happen. In addition to the Car Free routes, the Congestion Charge and low emission zones have been reinstated, and the cost of the Congestion Charge will rise to £15, and hours of operation extended to 7am-10pm 7 days a week.

The Central London plan also shows that the City of London (the borough authority that controls London’s financial district) share the Mayor’s vision, as this proposal can only happen with their close cooperation. Indeed the City of London had already developed a longer term plan for removing cars from most of the City, and this proposal fits closely with their vision.

While Central London is vital for the Mayor’s active travel plans, the vast majority of journeys begin outside the City. Clearly a much wider vision for all of London is needed. TfL have stated they will create 30km of new permanent cycle lanes this summer. They have released a London-wide map of proposed new ‘Streetspace Routes’ on their website (below). While this map is very much in development (it does not yet have the City of London routes above added), there are several very significant proposals, including-

  • Segregated cycle lanes on Euston Road- a vital busy highway connecting major rail stations (Paddington, Euston, Kings Cross), as well as linking to the north-south routes in the above Central London map. The Euston Road proposal extends all the way west to Acton;
  • adding a further set of new routes in West London, including Cycleway 9 from Hounslow to Brentford and Kensington Olympia;
  • speeding up the completion of CW4 from London Bridge to Greenwich and Woolwich in South East London;
  • improving CS7 to Brixton and Clapham in South West London;
  • completing a North-West link from Regents Park to Golders Green;
  • adding a new link from Hackney to Canary Wharf;

Predicting Where Cycling Demand is Likely to be Highest
While there are lots of excellent proposals in the TfL map above, it does not yet form a complete network (it also does not differentiate between the quality of existing cycle routes which are highly variable). We can use network analysis to consider where cycling demand is likely to be highest, and where new infrastructure should be prioritised. The analysis below by Nicolas Palominos at CASA is based on shortest paths between underground and rail stations, and is indicative of where active travel trips are most likely to be made if passengers are prevented from taking the tube/bus/train (see full working paper here). The map highlights the core network of Inner London’s most prominent links, including its oldest Roman Roads- Edgware Road, Kingsway, Oxford Street. Promisingly, there is considerable overlap between these critical shortest path routes and the cycle network proposals by TfL. We can see the importance of the new north-south Waterloo Bridge-Southampton Row link for example; Euston Road’s importance is clearly shown; as is Theobald’s Road to Old Street. TfL have completed similar analysis in their Strategic Cycling Analysis from 2017, and we can assume this is guiding their plans.

There are however some important links missing highlighted through the network analysis. The most significant missing link is London’s most important east-west route that runs along Hyde Park through Oxford Street all the way to Cheapside and the City (following the route of the Central Line). The City of London proposals cover the eastern section of this vital route, from High Holborn to Bank. There needs to be similar cycling upgrades for the western section: Oxford Street, Bayswater Road and Holland Park Avenue. This intervention requires the Mayor to cooperate closely with the City of Westminster authority. Politically this is difficult, as Westminster has been blocking high profile proposals from the mayor in recent years, most notably the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street. Coming to some agreement will be essential for the western expansion of the cycle network to be joined together effectively.

Other key routes that are not yet part of the proposals include Edgware Road; Peckham Road; Essex Road; Old Kent Road; City Road; Commercial Street; Kingsland Road; and Seven Sisters Road amongst others. These are discussed further in the working paper. Edgware Road is currently the main north-south driving route that avoids the Congestion Charge, and giving space to cycling would be difficult to implement here (although Park Lane is included in TfL’s plans, and indeed the Park Lane cycle lane is already installed on the western carriageway adjacent to Hyde park). The Swiss Cottage to Golders Green link looks like the proposed north-west alternative to Edgware Road, and would benefit from completion through Regents Park to the Euston Road link. The network analysis strongly agrees with the Euston Road cycle provision, though in this analysis this critical link continues further to Pentonville Road, City Road and Commercial Street encircling the City.

Overall, the TfL Streetspace proposals look very promising, and need to be further linked together and expanded as discussions with more boroughs continue. This will also need much more emphasis on Outer London centres and local shopping and school routes, important topics which are not covered in this article.

Estimating the Number of Cycling and Walking Trips Post-Lockdown
What might the the number of trips by different travel modes in London look like in the coming months? This is highly uncertain. Some modelling figures from Transport for London quoted in press releases are anticipating radical changes in behaviour, up to a ten times increase in cycling trips, and up to a five times increase in walking trips. Are these figures realistic?

The chart below shows the distribution of trips pre-lockdown (from TfL Travel in London Report 12), and a series of post-lockdown guesstimate scenarios to discuss where we might be heading. Normally in London we are looking at around 27 million trips per day, with 9.5m by transit, 10m by car, 7m by walking and 0.7m by cycling. The lock-down figures in the chart below are based on TfL’s statement that underground passengers have been at 5% of normal levels, and car traffic has been radically reduced (though is picking up more recently). We don’t know overall walking and cycling levels during lock-down, but given workplaces, schools and most shops are closed, they have likely fallen.

What happens next is massively uncertain. During the lockdown, everyone except for key workers have been staying at home. This will change as the lockdown lifts, depending on the percentage of people who continue to stay at home. There are various reasons for continuing to stay at home: working from home; looking after children at home (particularly if schools remain closed or are only partially opened); and people who are furloughed or become unemployed. Two scenarios are shown above, with 50% of people continuing to stay at home and 20% of people continuing to stay at home. The 50% figure is likely to be closer to reality for at the least the next few months, with infection rates still significant and most schools and workplaces still closed.

Using the 15% social distancing capacity limit estimated by TfL, we can see that 8 million daily public transport trips (or 4 million return trips) can no longer be made. The question then is what happens to these trips. The Active Travel scenarios shown above are based on a big increase in cycling and walking trips remaining constant or increasing. The Car Travel scenarios in contrast estimate what will happen if these trips do not switch to active travel, and significantly more driving occurs. This results in more car trips than pre-lockdown and consequent problems of increased congestion and air pollution.

How realistic is it to assume that public transport trips could switch to active travel modes? One basic way to consider this is using average trip distances by travel mode, as shown below. It is clear that National Rail trips are often long distance, and substitution with active travel is likely going to be unrealistic for most of these trips. This seems to be the assumption in the TfL plans, as the Car Free Streespace corridors prioritise linking up the biggest mainline railway stations. The idea is that mainline rail trips will change the next leg of their journey to cycling and walking, rather than tube or bus. There will likely be significantly more demand for cycle parking/hire facilities at stations and for taking bikes on trains.

The most popular public transport mode in London is the bus, and bus trip lengths are very close to average cycling trip lengths, so prospects for active travel substitution are much better for these trips. Average Underground distances of just under 10km are potentially workable as cycling trips of around 30-40 minutes (or quicker with electric modes), so some substitution is possible for these trips. The network analysis in the working paper found average trip lengths for shortest path between stations in Inner London to be just over 10km. The extent to which public transport trips can be substituted with walking trips is highly questionable for distances above 5km, as this will take most pedestrians an hour or more. The average walking trip in London is less than 1km. This likely makes cycling the key active travel mode for most public transport substitution, as well as there being significant opportunities for expanding recent micromobility options such as e-bikes and e-scooters.

The Mayor and Transport for London have proposed a radical Streetspace for London plan to redirect trips to walking and cycling as we move out of lockdown, and try to avoid a huge increase in car trips due to social-distancing capacity limits placed on public transport services. The Mayor and his team are essentially using this crisis to rapidly speed up active travel plans for London that were on the drawing board for the next decade. These plans are not empty words, they are backed up with a comprehensive transformation of many Central London routes to car free routes, as well as further restrictions on car use through the Congestion Charge. These measures are already being implemented.

At present, the proposed cycle network has lots of excellent proposals, yet remains incomplete, missing key links such as Oxford Street, as well as lacking proposals for linking Outer London centres. The proposals require support from London’s borough councils to be developed, and so far have support from key boroughs such as the City of London (with other pro-cycling boroughs such as Hackney and Camden also likely to be supportive). Hopefully more agreements will be reached with boroughs such as Wesminster, otherwise the new streetspace links will miss key parts of Inner London.

Overheating London and the Evolving North: Visualising Urban Growth with LuminoCity3D.org

Urban policy is currently riding high on the UK political agenda. A combination of the desire to rebalance the UK economy away from financial services; debates over massive high-speed rail investment; the worsening housing crisis in the South-East; and city devolution demands following the Scottish referendum, all point to major reform. As we move towards the 2015 general election, addressing city concerns is going to be a key, perhaps even decisive, election debate.

It is therefore a good time to take stock of recent urban growth and change in Great Britain, assess policy successes and failures, and consider how better outcomes might be achieved in the coming decades. This post draws on map visualisations from the LuminoCity3D.org website.

London and the South-East: Global Boom Region to Elite Island?
London’s recent growth has been phenomenal, gaining over a million residents (+13%) between 2001 and 2011. As we can see in the figure below, population growth has occurred across all of Greater London (except Kensington & Chelsea), with the strongest concentrations in Inner London and East London, reflecting the priorities of successive London Plans. This spectacular growth has not been confined to Greater London either, but is found across the South East region. The fastest growing UK towns and cities are nearly all in London’s orbit, including Milton Keynes with 20% growth, Ipswich with 15% growth, Cambridge with 16% growth and Ashford with 21% growth. This shared growth clearly illustrates that the South East is a closely integrated region, as further demonstrated by extensive commuting flows.

Population Change 2001-2011 in the South East region.

Inevitably it is strong economic growth that underpins this rise in population. London gained 650,000 jobs (+15%) between 2001-2011, strongly focussed in Inner London and Canary Wharf. Employment growth is much more unevenly spread across the South East, and arguably booming Inner London is taking jobs away from other centres, or pressuring some into becoming dormitory suburbs through soaring demand for housing. This is most clearly seen in Outer London in centres such as Croydon and Bromley where employment has fallen, while resident population has risen.

Employment density change 2001-2011 in the South East region.

Inner London is dominant for many employment sectors, not just financial and business services, but also creative industries, research, tourism, and increasingly for information technology, helping London to bounce back successfully from the great recession. The IT industry is an important growth sector, and has traditionally been concentrated in Reading, Bracknell and surrounding towns, an area dubbed the Western Sector by Sir Peter Hall in the 1980s. The Western Sector still retains the highest percentage of IT jobs in GB, but recent growth here has been sluggish. The current stars of the IT industry are now online and social media businesses, and these are attracted to the creative pull of Inner London. Meanwhile the most significant South East growth story outside the M25 has switched north, with Oxford (12% jobs growth), Milton Keynes (14% jobs growth) and Cambridge (22% jobs growth) forming a new northern arc of science and engineering based growth.

So with so many success stories, you be forgiven for thinking everything looking rosy for London and the South East. Unfortunately this is not the case. Soaring population growth has in no way been matched by new housing construction. What was previously a housing affordability problem in the South East is now an outright crisis that threatens to put the brakes on the entire region. Mean house prices just passed the incredible figure of £500,000 in July of this year, and a recent survey placed London as the most expensive city in the world to live and work. This is a looming disaster for future growth prospects. The crisis is not limited to London either, as shown below, with median prices above £300k for much of the South East, and the most popular cities experiencing similar extremes to London.

LondonSE_HousePrices copy
House prices 2013 in the South East region.

Soaring prices may seem like great news for property owners, but ultimately cities rely on their ability to attract talent and new businesses. And as London’s competitiveness falls, growth will go elsewhere. What has traditionally been a region of opportunity risks becoming a closed-shop for the wealthy.

And the situation is in danger of getting worse before it gets better. The current UK government did not create the housing shortage, but have overseen a period of historically low house building, with 2014 rumoured to hit rock-bottom. Mapping new-built housing sales leaves a sea of white, largely because there have been so few new houses constructed to sell. The recession presented an ideal opportunity for investing in housing and addressing unemployment, but this opportunity was missed. Trumpeted planning reforms have achieved very little, while right-to-buy policies have simply further increased prices.

Solving the housing crisis requires reform on a number of fronts. More power for local authorities to borrow money and make compulsory land purchases would certainly help. Linked to this is a desperate need for property tax reform to encourage housing to be used efficiently. Currently a £300k house pays the same council tax as a £10 million house, while empty housing is not discouraged, leaving many houses in Inner London as empty or underused investment vehicles. Similar arguments are made in favour of a land value tax to encourage land to be used efficiently and stop land banking.

Perhaps the most controversial issue is whether the green-belt can be retained in its current form. Calls from the eminent Richard Rogers that all new development can still be on brownfield frankly look out of touch with the reality in the South East. The debate really needs to switch towards how a controlled release of green belt land can be managed to avoid car-based sprawl and develop sustainable urban areas. Mapping rail infrastructure and urban density in the South East as shown below indicates that there are many potential locations with rail stations and room for growth. This approach would only however create more commuter towns, and ultimately there needs to be stronger planning for the entire South East region, likely with big urban extensions for successful cities such as Milton Keynes, Cambridge and Brighton. It is interesting that recent entries for the Wolfson prize were focussed on this approach.

Rail infrastructure, the green belt and urban density in the South East region


Northern Evolution: an Emerging Hierarchy of Urban Centres?
While the South East is in danger of overheating, the majority of the UK’s city-regions have been focussed on post-industrial regeneration and stimulating growth. And in the last decade there has been significant change for many northern cities. Starting in the North West and Yorkshire we can see rising populations in all the major city centres. Greater Manchester in particular has experienced high levels of growth, gaining 200,000 residents (+8%) and 100,000 jobs (+10%) between 2001 and 2011. By the regional definitions used in LuminoCity3D.org, Greater Manchester has overtaken the West Midlands to become the second largest city-region in the country with 2.6 million residents. Manchester city centre has also experienced high rates of employment growth and is the primary centre in the North West, with positive signs in the business services and science & engineering sectors.

The Leeds and West Yorkshire region is also growing quickly, gaining 120,000 residents (+8%) and 50,000 jobs (+6.6%). Population growth is greatest in Leeds city centre, but is evident across the region, particularly in Bradford and Huddersfield. Similar to Manchester, employment growth is focussed strongly on the largest centre, Leeds, with a concentration in financial and business services. Despite West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester being two of the most dynamic northern regions, there is very little travel interactions between them due to poor transport links, and this surely needs to be a policy priority.

Sheffield also displays significant city centre led growth, gaining 45,000 (+6.3%) residents and 21,000 jobs (+6.7%), as does Liverpool although there has been some population decline in the suburbs. Liverpool’s figures are a gain of 21,000 residents (1.8%) and a more impressive 44,000 jobs (10%).

Population change 2001-2011 in the North West and West Yorkshire regions.
Employment density change 2001-2011 in the North West and West Yorkshire regions.

The house prices map for the north-west and Yorkshire makes a very interesting comparison to London. The dramatic gentrification that has transformed Inner London towards increasing affluence and polarisation has not (yet?) occurred. The wealthy areas are mainly suburban in the north-west, often where large cities merge with national parks such as the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. There are some signs that wealthier South Manchester is beginning to move towards the city-centre, but this is still in earlier stages of city-centre transformation.

House prices 2013 in the North West and Yorkshire regions.

Moving on to the Midlands, again we can see population growth across all major city centres. Birmingham and the West Midlands gained 162,000 residents (7.3%) and 47,000 jobs (+4.8%) between 2001 and 2011, with similar city centre employment density levels to Manchester. The most dynamic cities in the Midlands seem to be medium sized cites, with Leicester growing 12.8%, Nottingham by 8.1% and Derby by 11.8%, although jobs growth is more mixed. There is a significant concentration of business service jobs in Birmingham city centre, but by far the most distinctive sector in the Midlands economy is hi-tech manufacturing and R&D jobs linked to the automotive industry. Clusters around major factories can be seen in Solihull Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Telford, Warwick and Crewe, with manufactures including Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota. The distributed nature of employment contributes to considerable travel flows between neighbouring cities.

Population change 2001-2011 in the Midlands region
Employment density change 2001-2011 in the Midlands region.

Similar to the North West and Yorkshire, city centre housing markets are relatively inexpensive in the Midlands, with wealthier areas in the suburbs, particularly between Birmingham, Coventry and Warwick/Leamington Spa. There are signs that wealthier groups to the south of Birmingham are moving further into the city centre.

House prices 2013 in the Midlands region.

Will Growth Transfer from the South East to the North?
With the South East struggling to accommodate growth and northern regions trying to attract more growth, the answer seems obvious- transfer growth to the north. Unfortunately urban economics is seldom that straightforward. London is a global leader in a range of service sectors, and it does not automatically follow that existing firms and new firms would choose northern cities over the South East. There are however many encouraging signs in cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham with growth in a range of knowledge-economy sectors. The gap with the South East still remains extensive, and this essentially is the crux of the debates about city devolution and infrastructure investment: whether or not these policies can enable northern cities to bridge this gap. London currently has great advantages in terms of public money invested in infrastructure like public transport, and also in terms of political power to plan and manage growth through the Mayor and Greater London Authority. The argument in favour of empowering northern cities looks increasingly convincing, and we shall see in the coming months whether politicians are brave enough to instigate this process.



Explore the performance and dynamics of GB cities at LuminoCity3D.org

Recent urban growth in the UK has further emphasised the role of cities in influencing economic prosperity, quality of life and sustainability. If we are to meet 21st century social and economic challenges then we need to plan and run our cities better. Data analysis can play a useful role in this task by helping understand current patterns and trends, and identifying successful cities for sharing best practice.

LuminoCity3D.org is a mapping platform designed to explore the performance and dynamics of cities in Great Britain. The site brings together a wide range of key city indicators, including population, growth, housing, travel behaviour, employment, business location and energy use. These indicators are mapped using a new 3D grid-based approach that allows consistent comparisons between urban areas to be made, and relationships between urban form and city performance to be identified (technical details are provided here). Press coverage of LuminoCity3D has included Londonist, Wired.co.uk, Independent Online and Guardian Cities.

Taking for example employment density change in northern English cities as shown below. Current growth is mainly in ‘knowledge-economy’ services that generally favour being clustered together in city centres, generally reinforcing a select few larger centres rather than many smaller centres. There is clear growth in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool city centres, particularly Manchester which displays the biggest increase in employment density of any location in GB. But around these success stories there is a much more mixed picture of growth and decline for many other centres that are finding it more difficult to compete for firms and jobs.

Employment density change in the north of England (blue is an increase and orange decline). Manchester and Leeds city centres have established themselves as the largest centres, with the biggest increase in Manchester.

Interactive City Statistics

City statistics are available to make more precise comparisons between urban areas. Statistics can be viewed on LuminoCity3D.org by moving your mouse pointer over a city of interest, or by hovering/clicking on the GB Overview Chart at the bottom left of the screen. The graphs and statistics change depending on the map indicator selected, so that the LuminoCity maps and statistics are interactively integrated.

The example below shows public transport travel, a key sustainability indicator that also has important economic and equity implications. Greater London is by far the public transport centre of the UK with nearly 50% of commuting by public transport. Without the investment and historic advantages of London, city-regions like Manchester and Birmingham do not even manage 20% PT commuting. But we can see that it is not essential to be as gigantic as London to achieve more sustainable travel. Edinburgh, with a compact form and extensive publicly owned bus network, achieves 36% PT commuting.

Public transport commuting in central Scotland. Hovering over urban areas highlights indicator statistics and highlights the city’s position on the GB Chart.

Indicator Themes

The map indicators on LuminoCity3D.org are split into five themes- Population, Transport, Housing, Society and Economy- which are selected from the Indicators Selection box to the top right. Population covers resident and employment density; Transport looks at journey-to-work, accessibility and air-pollution; Housing covers house prices, types, tenure and household size; Society looks at various inequality measures; and finally Economy covers the distribution of growth industries such as ICT, creative industries and hi-tech manufacturing.

House prices 2013 in the South East of England.

Comments and feedback on the site are very welcome. Have a look at the Comments & FAQ page, tweet @citygeographics, or email duncan2001@gmail.com.

LuminoCity3D Credits

Site design and cartography © Duncan A. Smith 2014.

Duncan is a researcher at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London. Data hosted at CASA with generous help from Steven Gray.

Maps created using TileMill opensource software by Mapbox. Website design uses the following javascript libraries- leaflet.js, mapbox.js and dimple.js (based on d3.js).

Source data Crown © Office for National Statistics, National Records of Scotland, DEFRA, Land Registry, DfT and Ordnance Survey 2014.

All the datasets used are government open data. Websites such as LuminoCity would not be possible without recent open data initiatives and the release of considerable government data into the public domain. Links to the specific datasets used in each map are provided to the bottom right of the page under “Source Data”.