Tuesday, June 22, 2004

White Flight

150,000 people a year are leaving inner London. Yet the populations of the inner London boroughs are rising - and getting younger, as immigration continues (immigrants tend statistically to be younger and to have more children). The Greater London population has risen by 627,000 in the last decade.

35,000 people arrived from just one country, Ghana last year.

It's not all white flight, of course. The middle classes of all colours are getting out of the English cities. A few miles away from me is a new edge-of-town estate almost entirely populated by ex-Brummies or Bristolians. My optician, a Kenyan Asian, left Birmingham a few years ago for Gloucestershire, as did a Sikh colleague, who had previously described to me how he heard a noise and opened his bedroom window one evening to be hit in the face by one of the two youths on his kitchen roof. He is stretched to pay the mortgage on his four bedroomed house, bought to house his parents as well as his wife and children - but as he said 'I just couldn't leave them there'.

This isn't good news for everyone. As agriculture declines, council houses have all been sold, and house prices rise, the rural poor tend to end up in the towns - often in the roughest, least desirable council properties. And I can testify that the character of country lanes is changing. The people who twenty years ago would have bought a big suburban house are now out in the sticks. My journey to work starts with 5 miles of back roads, once empty, now made dangerous by the solicitors and sales directors doing sixty in their Mercs and 4x4s. They all live in the converted stables of a local stately home - a development the size of a small village. Affordable housing at £400,000 a pop.

UPDATE - the Countryside Agency's new report is here (5 pdfs - approx 400k each) for those of you with fast links.

And the Indie cover the report well here.

More than a million people every decade are now leaving England's towns and cities to live in the countryside, according to new figures.

Between 1981 and 2002, the rural population grew seven times faster than the urban one, at 81,000 (0.7 per cent) a year, compared to 48,000 (0.1 per cent). Just over 14 million people (28.5 per cent of the population) now live in England's rural districts.

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