London is already Europe’s largest city, with a population in excess of 8.6m. The Greater London Authority expects this figure to climb to 11.3m over the next 25 years, but a fascinating report by Oxford Economics says that the GLA has underestimated the continuing boom, and that our city’s population will reach 12m by 2050.
The research highlights problems that could ensue if London’s infrastructure does not keep up with the pace of change. Such concerns are understandable, but we must not lose sight of the fact that a growing population is symptomatic of the city’s ongoing success story. Failing cities, by comparison, can typically be identified by their shrinking number of inhabitants.
London’s economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.3 per cent according to estimates by RBS published in the autumn, while the City grew by 5.5 per cent – both outstripping the UK average.
Employment has been booming in the Square Mile, Canary Wharf and other business districts as our city confirms its status as the engine of the UK economy. London, we should remember even during gloomy winter morning commutes, is the sixth richest place on earth.
Oxford Economics’ cities expert, Richard Holt, explains: “London is unique within Europe, and almost unique in the world, – a large city that is also growing fast, and that is hyper-competitive in the sectors that really matter going forward, such as digital media, life sciences, legal services, consultancy, advertising and of course finance.”
One third of our city comprises parks and gardens, compared to 10 per cent in Paris. Our arts scene is thriving. Half of Londoners have a degree, compared to one third in New York.
But Holt warns, rightly, that “none of that can continue without inflows of talented people”. Bear in mind that net international migration to London and the south east was 141,300 in the year most recently recorded by the Office for National Statistics – more than to the rest of the UK combined.
We need people, we need houses, and we need excellent transport services. Get that right, and London will continue to blossom into one of the world’s greatest mega-cities.