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More about URBACT

Edited on

30 October 2017

The UK is a densely populated and relatively heavily urbanised country. Over four-fifths (81.5 per cent or 45.7 million people) of the population of England and Wales live in urban areas. Urban areas cover 8.9 per cent of the UK’s land mass.

Nearly 41 per cent of urban dwellers live in one of the ten most populous urban areas. They accounted for 19 million people or 32.4 per cent of the UK’s population. The ten most populous urban areas in the UK are:

  • Greater London Urban Area
  • West Midlands Urban Area
  • Greater Manchester Urban Area
  • West Yorkshire Urban Area
  • Greater Glasgow
  • Tyneside
  • Liverpool Urban Area
  • Nottingham Urban Area
  • Sheffield Urban Area
  • Bristol Urban Area.

These larger cities are also the drivers for much of the UK's economic activity. London, the eight English Core Cities and Cardiff and Edinburgh together account for 40% of UK GVA.  At an international scale, however, very few of the UK's cities are in the top performers. Of the 20 highest economic performers in Europe only London is represented from the UK.

City governance and leadership has changed significantly in the UK in recent years, with national poilot schemes such as City Deals and Growth Deals, negotiated case-by-case, being introduced as bespoke mechanisms to overcome barriers to place-specific economic growth. There has also been an increasing difference between practical arrangements in England and in the Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

In England, the development of 39 Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs), nominally covering ‘natural economic areas’, has led to localised economic strategies which are used to negotiate funding with central government.  Combined Authorities have been encouraged as a means of establishing the capacity to deliver growth more effectively and as a mechanism for managing devolved funding that extends beyond economic growth and into public service reform. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the development of cities has had a similar local flavour, with major cities such as Belfast, Glasgow and Cardiff participating in new pilot programmes such as Innovate UK's Future Cities Initiative (see here for more detail).

Urbact projects in the UK are beginning to address these complex issues, with 13 UK partners across all the four countries of the UK. Within those projects, seven of the 10 major urban areas listed above are represented by local partnerships.