Geography - Urban issues and challenges - UK and London

The UK's cities

  • UK's population is unevenly distributed (majority in Midlands or south-east England)
  • 82% of the UK's population live in cities (normal for a HIC)
  • Population density varies across the county (about 5000/km2 in London, less than 10/km2 in northern Scotland)
  • UK's average population density is 260/km2, making us one of the most densely populated countries in Europe
  • Cities tend to be located on flat, low lying areas of land, particularly on the coast or on major rivers, as this is where they grew, supported by farming, trade and industry
  • Fastest growing cities are in south-east England, the region with the fastest-growing economy (cities in the south developed their financial status sooner and more jobs were in the service sector)
  • Biggest growth in London
  • A low population increase in north-east England (decline of industry caused many to lose their jobs and move away to find work)
  • Higher numbers of people in south-east England means not enough jobs for everyone and services are stretched
  • North-east England could go into a spiral of decline as not enough people to work and fill the jobs, and a lack of money means businesses fail, as no one wants to invest
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London - Key facts

  • London is the capital city of the UK
  • It is located in the south-east of England on the River Thames, approximately 50 miles south-east of Oxford and north-west of Canterbury
  • Greater London consists of 33 districts and 32 boroughs plus the City of London
  • The region covers 607 sq miles
  • Population of over 8 million
  • 12.4 million people, in wider metropolitan area
  • Most populous city in the EU
  • 25th largest city, 17th largest metropolitan region in world (in terms of population)
  • 4th in the world for number of US dollar billionaires residing in the city
  • One of the most expensive cities in the world
  • 52 people per hectare
  • Average age of 36
  • 3 years younger than England as a whole
  • 45% are single
  • 84% are in good or very good health
  • 38% have high level qualifications (68% in the City of London)
  • 60% are white
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Why is London important?

  • the monarch's main residences are in London
  • over 40 higher education institutions and a student population of over 400,000
  • a business friendly environment (the City of London us a business democracy)
  • many cultural offerings (4 UNESCO world heritage sites, O2 arena is world's most popular music venue, over 170 museums, more live comedy than any other city)
  • hundreds of thousands commute in daily for work
  • capital of the UK, and the former British Empire
  • generates approximately 22% of the UK'S GDP
  • home to the UK parliament
  • transport hub (good road, rail, underground transport, 6 international airports)
  • population of over 8 million, a further 4-6 million in surrounding metropolitan area (most populous city in the UK, and the EU)
  • the world's leading financial centre for international business and commerce and is one of the "command centres” for the global economy
  • exports approximately £92 billion worth of products to other countries every year
  • location in central time zone allows it to act as bridge between US and Asian markets
  • most visited city in the world by international tourists (18.8 million forecast in 2015)
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Push and Pull factors for London

  • Factors pulling people from rest of UK to London:
  • Job opportunitiess
  • Diversity
  • Entertainment
  • Good connectivity
  • Factors pushing people from London to rest of UK:
  • Cheaper housing
  • Less busy/crowded
  • Less pollution
  • Less intense
  • Less traffic congestion
  • More green spaces
  • Safer
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International migration in London

  • A gateway city in post-war Britain, Europe, and Empire
  • Over 1 in 3 Londoners were born abroad
  • Must provide services for rapidly changing, dynamic city
  • London’s migrant population concentrated at high and low ends of the class sectors
  • Nearly half of England and Wales' population lives in London
  • Schools just address teaching for children where English isn’t their 1st language
  • Homelessness within migrant population is rising
  • More visible migrant population - London more accepting than elsewhere
  • People originally from India make up the highest numbers...
  • followed by those from Nigeria, Jamaica and Bangladesh (all former British colonies)
  • Also increasing numbers of Polish and other EU members
  • Migrants often choose to live together in the same boroughs (as living with people from their own country creates a sense of community, shared understanding, feeling of familiarity, and also there are services adapted for their religion/culture/language)
  • This makes London, as a whole, more diverse but could also encourage segregation
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Gentrifying East London (Shoreditch)

  • Shoreditch has changed from a run down area (with many old factories and warehouses, and many closed down industries) to a gentrified business area
  • Old industrial buildings >> flats and offices
  • Pubs and bars >> restaurants and art galleries
  • New creative industries (web design/film making/art)
  • Hi-tech companies around Old Street roundabout, nicknamed ‘Silicon Roundabout’
  • New, younger population brought new forms of recreation and entertainment
  • One of the most vibrant parts of London
  • Rents and property prices increasing
  • Older residents and Bangladeshi families moving out >> young professional workers moving in
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Impacts of gentrification (inner city area)

  • decrease in crime rates
  • more visually appealing
  • old buildings are restored
  • boosts economy of an area
  • increased leisure and recreational facilities
  • more service sector employment
  • improved transport networks
  • increased and improved housing stock
  • higher socio-economic groups attracted to area
  • takes away diversity and original character of a place
  • higher prices
  • reduction of social housing stock
  • many compulsory purchases
  • disintegration of long-standing communities / social cleansing
  • people relocated to unfamiliar areas
  • loss of public assets
  • widening wealth gap between rich and poor
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Social and economic opportunities

  • Social:
  • theatre shows (The West End)
  • shopping (Bond Street, Oxford Street, Covent Garden)
  • sporting facilities (Olympics, London Marathon, London sports awards)
  • museums and galleries (British Museum, V&A, Tate Modern, National Gallery)
  • music concerts (O2 Arena, Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena)
  • Changing Economic:
  • Number of jobs rising
  • By 1980, docks closed with industries gone too
  • Regeneration of docks >> new ways to use land, attracting investment, creating jobs
  • Canary Wharf (high rise office blocks, over 100,000 people work there)
  • London is now one of the world’s leading financial centres
  • Biggest decline in manufacturing industry (replaced by tertiary sector and professionals)
  • Biggest rise in 'Professional, scientific, technical and real estate' >> almost doubled between 1996 and 2013
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Inequalities and deprivation

  • Over 2 million people live in poverty in London
  • Deprivation is measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation (7 factors)
  • The North of London is more deprived in general than the South
  • The West is also less deprived than the East
  • Life expectancy is an indicator of deprivation
  • A difference of 8 years in male life expectancy between K+C and Newham
  • As the deprivation increases, the percentage of 5 A*-C decreases
  • Cycle of deprivation
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Environmental opportunities and challenges

  • Over 35,000 acres of green spaces, equivalent to over 47% of its surface area
  • One of the greeenest cities of its size in the world
  • Physical Benefits of green space in urban areas:
  • improved air quality
  • trees absorb CO2 and regulate air temperature
  • provides natural drainage, flood control
  • home for plants and animals, helping diverse species
  • soil and trees filter out pollutants
  • more sustainable
  • Human Benefits of green space in urban areas:
  • provides better air quality, areas for exercise >> counteracts ill health
  • reduces stress, improves mental wellbeing, higher levels of happiness
  • attracts visitors
  • free and accessible, places to play and hold public events
  • significant role in child development
  • sense of community
  • space to grow food (over 30,000 allotments)
  • DERELICTION is a problem
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Greenfield sites (+ / —)


  • more space to land is cheaper and room to expand
  • properties can have larger gardens
  • more pleasant environment to live in, so more desirable housing
  • easier and cheaper to build on, as don’t need to be decontaminated or demolished


  • loss of habitat and biodiversity
  • increases urban sprawl
  • loss of farmland or space for recreation
  • new infrastructure also has to be added
  • increases congestion on surrounding roads and services
  • sucks the life out of cities
  • is unsustainable
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Brownfield sites (+ / —)


  • reuses derelict land
  • reduces urban sprawl
  • existing infrastructure and public transport already in place, fewer cars needed
  • creates new employment opportunities in the city
  • gentrifies surrounding areas
  • house prices increase
  • crime rates reduce


  • lower income groups may not be able to afford increased house prices so forced to move away
  • land may need to be decontaminated or buildings demolished which can be expensive
  • limited space so land is more expensive
  • may border other undesirable areas
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Waste disposal

  • Recycling +
  • less waste is put into landfill sites/has to be incinerated
  • fewer resources used, waste is being made into something new
  • Recycling —
  • hard to enforce recycling law on large corporations
  • lack of recycling facilities (costly)
  • Landfill +
  • former quarries can be filled in and the land reused, cheap
  • Landfill —
  • uses up a lot of space
  • uses many lorries, so releasing harmful gases
  • waste rots and can cause problems for further generations
  • Incineration +
  • waste is incinerated to produce energy: the heat generated from the process turns water into steam which drives turbines to create electricity
  • jobs created at the incineration plants
  • Incineration —
  • uses many lorries, so releasing harmful gases, and fumes emitted
  • plants visually pollute the surrounding area
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Need for change - Newham + Lower Lea Valley

  • The Lower Lea Valley (East London) was once one of the main industrial areas
  • Due to deindustrialisation of the East London docklands, Newham and Lower Lea Valley experienced decline and many buildings became derelict
  • Newham has young (highest fertility rate in country), diverse (32% whites) population
  • Low employment at 56%, job seekers made up 6.3%, nearly twice the UK average
  • Child poverty (69% of children were living in low income households, 41% lived in households where no one worked at all)
  • Those that do work earn about £12,000 less than the London average
  • Low rates of owner occupation, 36,000 residents applying for social housing
  • Newham has the 4th worst crime rate in London
  • Indicators showed health to be significantly worse than the UK average
  • ECONOMIC : Most jobs are either high skilled or badly paid, so many young people struggle to find work, as they have dropped out of school, as they saw no point in gaining qualifications if they won’t get good jobs
  • SOCIAL: Highest proportion of one parent families, so many cannot work as they are looking after children, 1 in 4 houses overcrowded, 41% of population under 24
  • ENVIRONMENTAL: Toxic waste and rubbish left from industrial times, polluted rivers and canals, many brownfield sites, not many green areas for people to go to
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Process of change

  • Obstacles that had to be overcome:
  • Justifying the planned £6 billion investment (which rose to £9.3 billion) to tax payers
  • Land had to be brought together under one owner, the Olympic Delivery Authority, requiring compulsory purchases from existing landowners, some of whom protested
  • Previously polluted land had to be decontaminated before building could begin
  • Electricity pylons had to be removed and overhead cabled buried below ground, to improve the appearance of the landscape
  • Waterways and railways crisscrossed the site, bridges built to link the area together
  • Objections to the Olympic Games:
  • Over 250 businesses relocated to make way for the Olympic Park
  • 500 houses had to be demolished, as well as the UK's largest church
  • Construction process will create noise, visual and air pollution
  • 500 trees were removed to make way for building, 87 allotments lost
  • London council taxpayers will have to pay for about $1 billion of building costs
  • Construction work increased road traffic, road restrictions during the games
  • Localised inflation (some first time buyers priced out of market)
  • Estate must be demolished, residents forced to relocate, received £8.5k compensation, affordable housing
  • Many jobs will only be temporary
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Legacy of London 2012

  • 9,000 new homes, at least half will be low-cost affordable housing
  • new schools and community centres built to accommodate extra residents
  • new sports facilities, to be enjoyed by athletes, local residents, used for future events
  • improved transportation (Docklands Light Railway, East London line, Eurostar)
  • 12,000 new permanent jobs, thousands more temporary jobs during the games
  • new open spaces and facilities will encourage a healthier lifestyle
  • new media centre will remain for creative arts
  • image of East London should be enhanced from its currently negative one
  • new bridges will be built across the river to improve transport links and accessibility
  • tourism will be boosted
  • positive multiplier effect will attract new businesses
  • large brownfield sites will be cleared up in the Lower Lea Valley
  • largest new urban park since Victorian times will be created in Newham
  • in total 1,850km3 of polluted soil will be cleaned (left over from its industrial past)
  • the River Lea is being cleaned and opened up, previously ran underground and was heavily polluted. This should attract fish and animal life to return
  • overhead powerlines (13km) have been moved underground for a more pleasant and possibly safer environment
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Sustainable urban living

  • Cities can be more sustainable by...
  • Conserving water and energy:
  • collecting rain water and recycling water for use as 'grey water'
  • increasing efficiency of devices
  • using biomass
  • making greater use of insulation
  • incorporating renewable energy systems
  • Recycling waste:
  • reducing packaging and recycling materials
  • using waste to create energy
  • encouraging people and industries to sort materials
  • Creating green space:
  • urban greening (absorbs and purifies water, helps reduce flood risk, creates valuable natural ecosystems for wildlife, provides much needed social and recreational space)
  • Urban transport strategies:
  • developing an integrated transport system
  • making public transport more attractive (adding to and improving it)
  • reducing car parking spaces or charging for cars to enter a city centre
  • enabling more cyclists on the road
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Urban transport strategies

To reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in London:

  • Congestion Charge
  • Barclays bikes
  • Improved rail links
  • Bus lanes and priority traffic lights
  • Hydrogen buses
  • Car pooling
  • Working from home and flexitime
  • Increased road tax, petrol tax, and workplace parking levy
  • Park and Ride
  • Pedestrianisation
  • Extension of the underground
  • Re introduction of the trams
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