As census data has been released, it was revealed that the UK population has grown by 6% in the last decade, a period which has seen the UK recover from a recession, make a massive decision about its role on the world stage, and suffer a world-changing global pandemic. Population growth was not equal. However, some cities have seen much more population growth, as well as growing economies and a resultant increase in house prices. Examples of this include Bristol and Brighton. An even more uncertain decade is on the way; the question is which unassuming British cities, all with below-average house prices, will be the next to see significant growth – see suggestions below.
- Projected population growth 2020-2030: 4.67% (slightly more than across England).
- Ranking in 2021 UK Prosperity Index: 282, up from 307 in 2011.
- Current average house price: £283,081 (UK average £278,000).
Southampton has already seen a significant population increase in the period 2010-2020, at 8.7%. It has a pool of highly qualified workers, but the city's lack of office space has limited its role as a worker hub. However, the development of a new mixed-use quarter includes some all-important office space and the post-pandemic increase in remote working could also ease this pressure. Southampton is already one of the UK’s biggest ports and plans for the Solent Freeport could also bring thousands of new jobs to the area.
- Projected population growth 2020-2030: 10.54% (having increased 21.73% 2010-2020).
- Ranking in the 2021 UK Prosperity Index: 256, up from 349 in 2011.
- Current average house price: £215,870 (£278,000 in the UK).
Coventry’s population growth, whilst slowing down after the last decade, will continue to be very significant, especially increases in the populations of 16–24-year-olds and 25–49-year-olds. 2021 saw celebrations of Coventry as the UK City of Culture, which has given the city access to millions of pounds in funding for infrastructure and art. This has been noted as a catalyst for development; in fact, Coventry ranks highly for enterprise conditions. Coventry can also be expected to benefit from its proximity to booming Birmingham and the new HS2 interchange.
- Projected population growth 2020-2030: 6.47% (having increased 7.70% 2010-2020).
- Ranking in 2021 UK Prosperity Index: 124, down from 82 in 2011.
- Current average house price: £215,870 (UK average £278,000).
Swindon’s fall in Legatum’s Prosperity Index could be seen as a concern, but 124 out of 379 can still be seen as positive. Swindon ranks within the top 50 for personal freedom and living conditions. Swindon has also been identified elsewhere as a fast-growing city; 3rd in PWCs' good growth index with a high share of jobs in private KIBS, and a strong labour market. One factor holding Swindon back is a lack of workers with a degree level education, but an institute of technology is expected to significantly upskill the population.
- Projected population growth 2020-2030: 6.21% (having increased 8.96% 2010-2020).
- Ranking in 2021 UK Prosperity Index: 205, up from 296 in 2011.
- Current average house price: £228,022 (UK average £278,000).
Leicester’s population growth is matched by good economic growth. In fact, the city is the highest ranked in the east midlands for enterprise conditions, ranking 6th overall. Leicester benefits from being the base of several large UK corporations, including Walkers and Dunelm. Leicester University has consistently ranked in and around the top 30 universities in the UK, a good stepping stone for the city's development and growth. The location of Leicester, with access across the north and south of England, also lends itself to growth.
Sources: UK Prosperity Index 2021, Centre for cities – Southampton City Centre, Centre for Cities - Fast growth cities 2021 and beyond, PWC – Good growth 2022, BBC News, Property investments – Fastest growing cities in the UK , Coventry.gov – Economic growth and prosperity strategy, Shutterstock.