Has England’s green and pleasant land all of a sudden become England’s green and overcrowded land?
With the nation’s ever-increasing population and – double whammy – the fact that people are now living longer, each year that goes by there is an ever-growing strain on public services and, in particular, housing – my favourite topic. It’s no wonder some people are saying things have reached a crisis point when it comes to infrastructure (like roads, schooling etc.) and especially housing. I hear it all the time, people complaining that Wigston looks like a building site and that we’re packing people into our Wigston homes like sardines. I wanted to find out exactly what the truth was.
Starting with the UK as a whole, there are 698 people per square mile, whilst in England, there are 1,103 people per square mile and, finally, in Greater London there are 14,587 people per square mile… These all sound like quite awful numbers, until you drill down and realise a square mile is an awfully big area – there are only 93,600 square miles in the whole of the UK, and that includes the wilderness areas of Scotland!
Let’s look at more realistic areas of land… and I want to look at my favourite, the acre. To those born after the mid-1970s, an acre is roughly half the size of a football pitch, or a square roughly 63 x 63 metres, and there are just under 2.5 acres in a hectare.
The population of Wigston (LE18) is 32,861 and the total area is 5,803 acres, meaning 5.66 people live in every acre of Wigston (LE18)
So, how does that compare to neighbouring areas and towns?
|Location and Postcode||Population||Area in Acres||Population Density – # People per Acre|
|Market Harborough (LE16)||34,975||70,931||0.49|
|Melton Mowbray (LE13)||27,158||5,699||4.77|
As you can see, there are just over five people per acre in Wigston, interesting when compared to both Greater London, which has a density of 23.26 people per acre, and London’s most crowded suburb, Pimlico, at 92.32 people per acre. Yet even Pimlico is nothing to the Collblanc district in Barcelona, which has 214.8 people per acre.
So, is Wigston over-populated? It might seem that way at school time or when sitting in traffic, but the stats show it isn’t.
Evidently, we are never going to have an even spread of population, as can be seen from the figures in the table, and the remote nature of some parts of the country would not be able to withstand high densities of new people without enormous infrastructure investment.
Yet could we accommodate a much larger population in the UK (and Wigston), knowing there would be trade-offs? If you look back to the 17th and 18th centuries, certain sectors of society were warning about population growth. The population of the UK in 1801 was 10.5 million and, despite the population growth since, only 1.2% of the UK is currently built on for housing purposes.
The question, it seems to me, is not can we manage, but how would a larger Wigston population change our way of life, both for the better and, possibly, the worse?
The planners have a responsibility to ensure Wigston provides its fair share of new homes to accommodate this population growth in the coming years. The local authority has a responsibility to ensure adequate provision of infrastructure including roads, hospitals and schools etc., to match the growth in housing. This is not a political topic and I hope once the ‘B’ word is finally sorted we can get on with addressing the shortage of affordable new homes for future generations.