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Net migration into the UK reached a record high of 335,600 last year, helping the overall population rise to 65.1m, according to official statistics.
The rise in net migration, which has been a sensitive subject in the run-up to the UK’s referendum on its EU membership, made up the largest part of the country’s 0.8 per cent rise in overall population.
Meanwhile, natural population growth — the difference between the number of births and deaths — dropped to the lowest level in nine years, at 171,800.
The number of deaths rose (up 52,400 on the previous year) and births fell (down 1,900). The rise in deaths was partly due to flu outbreaks in early 2015. The flow of immigrants into the UK helped bolster the numbers of those in their 20s and 30s in an otherwise ageing population.
The figures published on Thursday were in line with the projections the Office for National Statistics published last month.
Across the country population growth varied substantially, reinforcing patterns that have been seen over the last decade. Many inner London boroughs saw rapid rises in population, while some rural areas of Scotland and Wales saw their populations decline.
The release of the figures had been scheduled since last year and therefore was not subject to the usual “purdah” restrictions, which prevent government departments from releasing sensitive information during a referendum campaign.
Around the country there was no clear positive correlation between high levels of recent population growth and support for Britain to leave the EU.
In fact, some of the areas that are most Europhile, according to analysis by Dr Chris Hanretty of the University of East Anglia, are also those that had seen the most rapid population growth.
Of the four home nations, England experienced the fastest population growth overall, at 0.86 per cent, with the population reaching 54.8m. Wales saw the slowest growth, of just 0.23 per cent.
But population growth across individual local areas varied substantially.
The five fastest growing areas were all in London, seeing between 2.6 per cent and 8.5 per cent population growth over the year to June 2015. In contrast, 35 per cent of local authorities in Scotland and Wales saw their populations decline.
The differences are even starker looking back further. Tower Hamlets, which was the second fastest growing local authority last year, has seen the fastest growth over the last ten years. There are now 38 per cent (or 82,000) more people living in Tower Hamlets than there were in 2005.
In contrast, Ceredigion in rural Wales saw the largest population decline last year and now has 1 per cent fewer people than ten years ago. It is one of 20 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to have seen its population fall since 2005.
The area that has seen the most rapid population decline over the last ten years is Kensington and Chelsea. The resident population of Kensington and Chelsea has declined 6 per cent since 2005 — 11,000 fewer people now live there.
But in the last year Kensington and Chelsea’s population rose almost 1 per cent. This continues a turnround that began a year earlier, following eight years of consistent decline.
However, Fionnuala Earley of Hamptons International said data from their branches on the importance of overseas buyers and sellers was not consistent with the changing population figures.
“The data can be volatile, but there has been no noticeable declining trend in overseas buyers nor an increase in overseas sellers after mid-2013,” she said.
The number of overseas buyers did drop towards the end of 2015 and into 2016 as uncertainty about the prospects for property price growth and the EU referendum increased.
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