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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 the double whammy that people are now living longer; as each year goes by, there is an ever-growing strain on public services and in particular, my favourite topic, housing. It’s no wonder some people are saying things are at a crisis point when it comes to infrastructure (like roads, schooling, etc.) and in particular housing. I hear it all the time, people complaining that Runcorn looks like a building site and, we are packing people in 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, while in England, there are 1,103 people per square, and finally in Greater London 14,587 people per square mile. These all sound like quite awful numbers, until you drill down and realise a square mile is a vast 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 approximately 63 metres by 63 metres, and there are just less than 2.5 acres in a hectare.

The population of Runcorn is 62,872, and the total area of Runcorn is 5,026 acres, meaning 12.51 people live per acre in Runcorn

So, how does that compare to neighbouring areas and towns?


Location and Postcode Population Area in Acres Population Density - # People per Acre
Runcorn 62,872 5,026 12.51
Northwich 47,421 3,561 13.32
Chester 90,524 6,307 14.35
Wigan 175,405 10,811 16.22
Ormskirk 24,073 1,654 14.55

As you can see, only just under 13 people live per acre in Runcorn, 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. Even Pimlico is nothing to the Collblanc district in Barcelona, which has 214.8 people living it per acre.

So, is Runcorn overpopulated? Yes, it seems that way at school time or rush hour when sitting in traffic that Runcorn is overpopulated, yet the stats show we aren’t.

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.
Could we accommodate a much larger population in the UK (and Runcorn) with some trade-offs? Look back at the 17th and 18th century, and certain sectors of society were warning about population growth. The population of the UK in 1801 was 10.5 million, and even with the growth of the population since then, 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 Runcorn population change our way of life, both for better and possibly worse?

The planners have a responsibility to ensure Runcorn provides its fair share of new homes to accommodate this population growth in the coming years. The local authority has a responsibility towards the adequate provision of infrastructure for our 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.