Population growth in Greater Manchester is unequal, finds UrbInfo

Updated: Nov 28, 2018

Central Manchester is growing at an unprecedented rate - but what about Greater Manchester's peripheral areas?


We all know Manchester is booming. Since 2007, the Greater Manchester area has seen an increase of 200,000 people. The ONS has again released its ward-level mid-year population estimates data so, just like last year, we decided to look at the way those 200,000 extra people have been spatially distributed throughout the region.


The following bar chart shows the population of Greater Manchester's ten boroughs in 2007 vs 2017. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the City of Manchester accounted for the lion's share of the region's population uplift: 37% (74,963 people). Despite it making up just 9% of the region's land area.

A lot happened in Greater Manchester in the ten years to 2017. The credit crunch, the recession, the Northern Powerhouse initiative, rail improvements and the rapid expansion of the Metrolink network. Greater Manchester has become a global tech hub, and is now attracting financial and technology firms from across the globe. Home-grown companies such as The Hut Group and Boohoo. com are going from strength to strength, employing thousands more people. It seemed as though Manchester was the first region outside London to witness significant growth once the recession subsided in 2012-13. We're now still in the midst of a post-recession Mancunian property boom, which is seeing tens of thousands of apartments, hotel beds and student accommodation, as well as millions of square feet of office space, being built all over the city. So it's no surprise that the borough at the centre of all that activity - Manchester - has grown the fastest by far:

The City of Manchester is now home to 74,000 more people than it was in 2007. Neighbouring Salford registered the second-highest increase in population in the ten years to 2017: +28,000. The fact that Greater Manchester's two most central boroughs have witnessed the greatest increase in population should come as no surprise. There has been a concerted effort to regenerate areas of inner Manchester and Salford, and to repopulate the city centre. Against this backdrop, development of greenfield land further out has been severely restricted, resulting in a population vacuum towards the core of the conurbation.


The map below shows how Greater Manchester's population change has been distributed at ward level. As the key demonstrates, areas coloured in red have seen their population decline in the ten years to 2017. Those in orange have seen growth, but not much. Purple areas are those which have seen 'moderate growth' - an increase in population of between 500 and 1,000 people, or roughly 50 to 100 people every year. Yellow-shaded areas have grown at a steady pace, between 1,000 and 2,000 people over the ten year period. Then light green areas have seen fast population growth, of between 2,000 and 5,000 people, while areas that have seen extreme population growth of over 5,000 people are marked in dark green.

View an interactive version of this map


15% of Greater Manchester's wards have declined in population over that time - nearly all of them are on the very periphery of the metropolitan area. 27% have seen low growth, while the majority - 28% - have seen moderate population growth of between 500 and 1,000 people. 20% have grown steadily, while 10% have seen either fast or extreme population growth.


The area around central Manchester has seen phenomenal growth. Over 50,000 people moved to Manchester city centre and the areas immediately surrounding it between 2007 and 2017. That's nearly 100 people every week, which means that if Manchester is to keep up this level of growth, we'll need to build an average of 50 apartments per week to accommodate them.

Leftbank apartments in Spinningfields. If Manchester's population growth continues at its current pace, the city would need to build an apartment block of this size every month to accommodate everyone

With an increase of 12,172 people, the City Centre ward had the highest growth of any other ward in Greater Manchester. On average, 1,200 people moved to the City Centre every year in the ten years to 2017. The highest year-on-year increase for the City Centre was between 2015 and 2016, when 2,949 people moved in. Ordsall ward - which encompasses Greengate, Central Salford and Salford Quays - saw its population more than double to nearly 19,000 in the ten years to 2017. The ten fastest-growing wards in Greater Manchester were all under 1.5 miles from Manchester city centre.


Inner Manchester - the wider area around central Manchester - is also seeing incredible growth. This area, bordered by the M60 motorway, increased its population by 102,021 people between 2007-17, 51% of the Greater Manchester total. Here, just 8% of wards are in decline, compared to 18% for outer Manchester. 75% of all wards which saw growth of more than 2,000 people in the ten years to 2017 were located inside the M60.


Wards with a declining population

Only 8% of wards inside the M60 are in decline, compared to 18% of wards in outer Manchester

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The wards which are in decline tend to be those right on the edge of the conurbation. Rural or semi-rural places such as Ramsbottom, Littleborough, south Marple and Norden. This correlation is even evident in declining wards which are further into the urban area - such as Failsworth East and Didsbury East, which both sit on river valleys acting as green fingers piercing the urban area. These areas tend to suffer from a lack of connectivity. The Metrolink network, shown in yellow, serves only a handful of these places. They are peripheral , sometimes quite remote areas. The biggest decline was seen in Crompton, a semi-rural area on the outskirts of Oldham. The borough of Bury contains the highest number of declining wards in the region (6), and this borough is also the least populated in Greater Manchester, and the one with the lowest population density and the most rural land.


Wards with low population growth (up to +500 people)


A very similar thing can be said for wards which experienced only low population growth (up to +500 people) during the ten years to 2017, shown below:

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Again, low growth wards tend to avoid the area inside the M60. Just 22% of low growth wards were located in inner Manchester, while 37% of wards in outer Manchester saw only low population growth. This builds a picture of a two-tier city. Inner Manchester: which is growing and changing rapidly, and outer Manchester: which is seeing mainly sluggish growth.


Similar to wards in decline, low growth wards are also in peripheral areas. Such as Little Lever and Breighmet, on the outskirts of Bolton; Aspull, on the outskirts of Wigan; Saddleworth; Bowdon; and Marple.


Moderate growth areas (+500-1,000 people)


This next map shows wards which have experienced moderate population growth. 28% of Greater Manchester wards have experienced moderate growth, between +500 and 1,000 people over the ten year period. Moderate growth wards are also relatively evenly split between wards outside and inside the M60. 23% of inner Manchester wards have experienced moderate growth, compared to 30% of outer Manchester wards.

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Moderate growth wards enroach on the urban area - and the area inside the M60 - much more than low or declining wards. Higher Blackley, Eccles, Fallowfield and Burnage in inner Manchester have all grown by between +500 and 1,000 people during the ten year period. As have more rural places such as Wardle and West Littleborough, Saddleworth South, Cadishead and Moorside in Bury. This makes it more difficult to assert that urban places closer to central Manchester are growing quickly, whereas peripheral rural areas are growing slowly.


Steady growth areas (+1,000-2,000 people)


22% of wards inside the M60 have seen steady growth of between 1,000 and 2,000 people over the ten year period, compared to 19% for outer Manchester.

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