The fastest growing cities in the UK

In 2021 the UK saw a massive spike in property sales in every region of the nation. The average house price in the UK rose by 10.9%. This was in spite of major instability throughout the world in 2021. In England, the largest average house price spike was seen in the South West, whilst London showed the smallest change. Wales also saw the largest average house price growth of any country in the UK. This hints at the reason for population shifts across the United Kingdom.

The Covid19 pandemic brought about a number of unforeseen changes to the workplace. One of these was the emergence of remote and hybrid working roles. This allowed some businesses, or at least certain workers, to operate from home. This meant that people began moving from large cities like London to places where they could get more space for their money. This is why rural areas like Wales and the South West became more popular whilst London stagnated.

However, does this trend follow in terms of cities? Are people seeking life in more spacious, less busy cities rather than living the cramped bustling life of the big city? This article aims to answer that question. It will also aim to discover what the fastest growing cities are and why.

What is the fastest-growing city in the UK?

According to Centre for Cities, Milton Keynes is the UK’s fastest-growing city. As one of eight places granted city status to mark the Queen’s jubilee, it is also one of the newest cities. The city is based in the South East. This area saw the third highest rise in the UK’s average house price.

Around 280,000 people now live in Milton Keynes. There is a long history that has helped establish the area as the fastest growing city in the UK. This goes back to the post-world war two rebuild of the nation. Up until 1967, Milton Keynes was a small village in Buckinghamshire. However, as part of the UK government’s final plans to move populations from bomb-damaged London, the small village rapidly grew. The plans transformed 8,850 hectares of villages and farmland into a town for 250,000 people.

Since then the newly crowned city has experienced exceptional economic growth. Around 10,000 businesses reside in the city. It also plays host to the Open University – which is the largest UK university in terms of total student enrolment. Such has been the success of the new town come city, it acts as a model for the establishment of new towns across the world.

Despite construction shortages as a result of Brexit and Covid – 19, MK has seen a thriving building trade. Per 100,000 residents there are 684 newly built properties. The city is predicted to continue its economic growth with an estimated Gross value-added growth of 3.3%. This will pump £500 million into the local economy. The staggering growth is also likely to its prime location. MK is halfway between educational giants Oxford and Cambridge.

What is the fastest population growth of all UK cities?

According to the latest figures by Statista, Coventry has consistently been shown to have the largest growth in population. From 2010 to 2020 the city grew by almost a quarter, peaking at 21.7%.

Coventry was awarded the UK City of Culture award 2021 in 2017. This places the city in the spotlight as the winner from May 2021 to May 2022. This undoubtedly boosted both the local economy and the population size. The city has been heralded for its richly diverse, multicultural populace. The city also has excellent transport links to two of England’s largest cities. Birmingham can be reached in just over twenty minutes. The UK’s largest city (London) can be reached in just over an hour.

The popularity of the city was also shown by Coventry’s average house price rise from 2021 to 2022. The average house price in Coventry rose by 11.4%, which was higher than the national average. Despite this, house prices only average £219,571, far below the national average (£295,888). This represents a major opportunity for property investors to purchase in one of the UK’s fastest-growing cities.

What is the UK’s Fastest Growing Cities Index?

The UK’s Fastest Growing Cities Index is a city tracker report highlighting the fastest growing cities in the UK. The report was conducted by online metal experts Metals4U. Their city tracker report was a five-factor model analysing key data indicators. This included:

  • The population of each city
  • The number of newly registered businesses
  • The business survival rate in each city
  • The average cost of living in each city
  • Metals4U’s commercial sales rates

Using this model, the results were very different. Using these metrics the North East (England) reigns supreme as the fastest growing area in the UK. Out of all other cities Bradford was shown to have the fastest growth. Out of a possible score of 100, the city earned full marks. The top five cities can be found below:

RankCityIndex ScoreBusiness Survival Rate
4Brighton & Hove8990.9

Why is Bradford one of the fastest-growing cities?

Bradford is in the running to follow Coventry as the UK City of Culture, undoubtedly bolstering the appeal of the area. Business research by the index showed that the local economy was thriving in Bradford. The report highlights that the business survival rate was an impressive 91.5%. This showed that despite the supply chain pressures of the 2020s Bradford maintained strong economic growth.

The index showed that there were 1,684 new businesses registered per 100,000 people. Bradford is also a hub for major employers. For example, more FTSE companies base their operations in Bradford than any other northern UK city. The local economy of Bradford has long been in manufacturing, and this remains the case. Around 160,000 people work in this sector. What these findings represent is that Bradford has one of the most stable economies of all UK regions. Furthermore, economic growth continues to expand.

However, Bradford remains one of the cheapest cities to buy property in England. An average house will cost £164,437. Also, although economic growth has been impressive in Bradford, the housing market has not kept pace. Average prices only grew by 5.7% – almost half the UK average. This could be a sign that although the economy is healthy, people are not choosing to move to Bradford. So, population growth does not match its economic growth.

What are the fastest-growing economies in the UK?

A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research found Cambridge to be the fastest growing economy in the UK. The findings that were made in collaboration with Irwin Mitchell showed Cambridge had the highest score for economic growth. The report examined a number of indicators, including GVA and employment growth. Milton Keynes was again shown to be one of the fastest-growing cities as it placed second.

In particular, Milton Keynes had the highest GVA growth of any city in the UK which was 8.5%. Oxford saw the highest employment growth reaching 5.7%. The report also showed that the economy of London suffered significantly as a result of Covid – 19. This was because the extremely high footfall that consumer-facing services relied on was lost to lockdown restrictions.

The Irwin Mitchell report also predicted that Milton Keynes would be the fastest-growing city in 2023.

The fastest-growing cities in the UK: Summary

In 2021 despite a global pandemic, the housing market boomed. The national average for house prices rose by 10.9%. Surprisingly London saw the lowest house price growth in the UK. This was likely due to the emergence of remote working. This gave people the freedom to move out of the city and work from home. Wales showed the largest growth in house prices as people moved to more spacious rural locations.

But, did this have any bearing on the growth of the UK’s cities? Reports confirmed that London showed poor growth even compared to other cities. The local economy suffered in particular as lockdown restrictions prevented the enormous footfall that many businesses relied on. However, other than this there was not a huge correlation. The South West saw the highest house growth, but none of the cities in that area were among the fastest-growing cities.

When analysing the fastest-growing cities, different metrics and different reports gave different answers. However, Milton Keynes was listed by several publications as one of the fastest-growing cities. It in fact was only recently granted city status. The Centre for Cities lists the area as the fastest growing city. A report by Irwin Mitchell and CEBR showed the city to have the second fastest-growing economy. The same findings predicted the city to be the fastest growing economy in 2023. The reasons for the city’s growth are:

  • It was part of a government resettlement plan post ww2
  • 10,000 businesses
  • Home to the Open University
  • The high percentage of newly built housing
  • Prime location between Oxford and Coventry

In terms of population rates, Coventry is consistently shown to be the fastest-growing city. From 2010 to 2020 the population rose by 21.7%. The town won the UK city of Culture award 2021. It also experienced a higher than average property rise in 2021.

The UK’s Fastest Growing Cities Index listed Bradford as number one. This was because Bradford had a strong and stable economy. Bradford has 1,684 new businesses registered per 100,000 people. Furthermore, this high amount of new businesses have a high chance of success, as the business survival rate is 91.5%. The foundation of the city’s strong economy is its manufacturing heart. Around 160,000 work in this sector. The city also hosts the headquarters for many FTSE companies. However, there does not appear to be a high demand to live or move to the area as house prices only rose by 5.7%.

However, the report by Irwin Mitchell listed Cambridge as the fastest-growing city. It also named rivals Oxford as having the highest employment growth of any city in the United Kingdom.