The phrase “it’s grim up north” is a well-worn saying, but it’s clearly one many Londoners appear to have seen through, according to a new survey.
Data from Experian shared with the i newspaper has revealed that people from the capital have been swapping urban myths for rural dreams by seeking to move away from the concrete jungle, with several alternatives in the shires proving particularly popular.
While four of the top ten areas people moved away from between September 2019 and February 2022 were London boroughs, rural areas saw the most incomers, with Selby in Yorkshire being one of the most popular of all, running neck-and-neck for the lead with Tewkesbury in the Cotswolds.
The pandemic has been cited as the key reason removal companies in Yorkshire have been busy, as the need for social distancing and the increasing availability of remote working has meant living in easy commuting distance of a city centre office has been of less importance.
Associate Professor in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment at University College London Dr Nikodem Szumilo told the i this has been a classic case of ”urban flight”.
He explained: “If people were able to live from home but not able to enjoy the amenities they get in the city they simply moved away.”
Now that the restrictions have been removed and the threat of Covid is much diminished, life has become more normal for most. The question will be whether the movement away from cities was a short-term thing.
Of course, if people are now ready to move back into urban areas, that could benefit cities in Yorkshire like Leeds, where large-scale development is taking place in and around the city centre and the population as a whole has risen over the past decade.
In 2020, Leeds was estimated to have a population of 800,000, the largest of any single local authority in the UK bar Birmingham. This was up from 751,000 in the 2011 census.
The 2021 census figures will be published later this year, providing a more precise figure for the city’s population and those of Yorkshire’s other towns and cities.