What England and Wales might look like without greenbelt legislation: If urban areas in England and Wales had the same population densities as their counterparts in the U.S.

  • So in this map, I've used three different urban areas in the US as a reference: the most densely populated one (the LA-Long Beach-Anaheim urban area, 2702pp/km2 ), the one which is notorious even by American standards for its sprawl (Atlanta, 659pp/km2 ) and one urban area which is sort of middle-of-the-road (Dallas-Fort Worth, 1112pp/km2 ).
  • All data for the UK comes from the 2011 Census. The areas in red are the current built-up areas in England and Wales according to the Census (I've left out Scotland and NI as they are a) less densely populated and b) the Census classifies them separately from England and Wales). This map works at a Local Super Output Area (LSOA) resolution, these are subdivisions of the UK devised by the Census, each containing between 1000 and 10,000 people, which means that the area covered by each LSOA will be much larger in more sparsely populated areas like Northumberland than they would be in the middle of London. That's the main reason why the Tyneside/Teesside urban area seems much less sprawling on this map than it otherwise would be, because the LSOA resolution in Northumberland is very low.
  • I've also done a few close-ups of this map where I have labelled as many urban areas as I could without cluttering the map up with place names, but obviously I could put more on there. I will try and find a way of uploading my original map as a shapefile where you can zoom in at your pleasure without the map getting all pixelated, if anyone can tell me how to write a shapefile in Matlab which retains fill colour for each polygon, please feel free to do so.
  • As you can see, I have not taken into account national parks (particularly the Peak District and South Downs) or other protected areas which would in practice cause expansion to be non-radial.
  • Also, I hasten to add, this is not meant to be any kind of political statement of my views on building on greenbelt land.
  • Finally, apologies to the citizens of Bournemouth and Ipswich for spelling the names of their cities wrong.

What England and Wales might look like without greenbelt legislation: If urban areas in England and Wales had the same population densities as their counterparts in the U.S.

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Alex E

“Maps are like campfires – everyone gathers around them, because they allow people to understand complex issues at a glance, and find agreement about how to help the land.”