The population of the UK is heading back to city centres to live and work after decades of stagnation had left many of them run down and deserted in some areas.

The resurgence of the UK city centre has been led by the Northern Powerhouse. Liverpool and Manchester experienced three figure percentage population growths in their grand and historic city centres across the period from 2002 to 2015. During that time, the population of the UK increased by 10%.

Liverpool City Centre Living

It is Liverpool that has grown the fastest in that amount of time, enjoying an incredible 181% surge in its city centre population. This is no accident, and it is a testament to the extensive regeneration work that has taken place in the decade since Liverpool celebrated its European Capital of Culture year in 2008. Immense regeneration projects such as Liverpool Waters, Wirral Waters, and developments currently in the pipeline like the Ten Streets undertaking have made Liverpool one of the most attractive propositions in the country.

Similarly, in neighbouring Manchester, a population increase of 149% has brought the Northern Powerhouse right into contention as a viable alternative to London. Manchester, like Liverpool, is reaping the benefits of intense and ambitious regeneration schemes that have transformed not just the landscape of the city but has made it a vital cog in the UK’s economic machine. Manchester is not regarded as the UK’s ‘second city’ for fun; it is a much-deserved moniker.

These two cities, formerly the industrial heartlands of the UK, all share common elements and economic drivers that mean their strong resurgence and rise to prominence is not just a flash in the pan. Cities like Liverpool and Manchester have both benefited from the growing numbers of people fleeing London in their droves. The high cost of living, spiralling property prices and overpopulation have taken their toll on the capital’s citizens, who are increasingly seeking out new, cheaper places to live and work. With 330,000 people having left London during 2016 and 2017, a great number of these capital exiles are attracted to the existing infrastructure and extensive regeneration found in these three cities.

A burst in student numbers across the UK is a major factor in the growth of city centre populations. Universities in the UK have experienced a huge rise in enrolled students at undergraduate and postgraduate level, with gains made in the numbers of foreign students performing their studies in the UK. In the 2016/17 academic year, 2.32 million students were enrolled across the 162 public higher education institutes across the country. Undergraduates accounted for 1.76 million.

With growing numbers of students comes more and more people setting up home in city centres. The students of today gravitate toward more accessible locations that provide good transport links and keep their own travel costs down. A third of young professionals and students walk to work or campus every day.

Living and Working in Manchester

The rise of the UK’s city centre populations has done wonders for the UK’s buy to let property market. Buy to let investors operating in Liverpool and Manchester already enjoy low entry costs and garner fantastic yields and returns.

The latest property price index figures put Manchester at the top of the UK’s 20 largest cities. Capital appreciation growth for the 12 months to the end of June 2018 came to a staggering 7.4% against a national average of 4.6%. By comparison, over the same 12-month period, London’s capital appreciation grew by 0.7%; one of the smallest figures in the country. Liverpool came in a close second with 7.2%; further indication that the Northern Powerhouse is quickly becoming a viable economic contender for the capital.

As more and more young professionals and students head toward the city centres, the demand for luxury, affordable accommodation is higher than it has ever been. Investors are inundated with potential tenants as soon as new developments are made available, with demand far outstripping supply, even with new builds and developments being erected at an ever-quickening pace.

It is a self-perpetuating cycle. Rejuvenation and regeneration has attracted more young professionals and students, both key demographics for job and salary figures, who in turn make the city centres they are moving to more attractive and wealthier places to live. Without these two important social groups, UK city centres may not have experienced such rapid and prosperous growth.

In the present day, the numbers of 20 to 29-year-olds living and working in UK city centres grew so expeditiously that this demographic accounted for more than half of leading city centre locations in the UK. The momentum from this decrease of the average age in rapidly growing city centre populations has been tremendous. To cater to this younger, wealthier, more upwardly mobile and ambitious crowd, the economy has provided. Following in the wake of this avalanche of migration back to the heart of the matter, a slew of new commercial enterprises, gyms and bars and restaurants have sprung up.

Living and working in the city centre is no longer the unappealing, polluted, low-quality experience it was two or three decades ago. The swell of city centre populations across the UK and the resultant growth in more luxurious amenities, high-end luxury accommodation and the convenience of having the centre of your own personal universe on your doorstep far outweigh any downsides. Expect these trends to continue for a long while yet.

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