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The Changing Spatial Distribution of the Population in England: Its Nature and Significance for ‘Peak Car’

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Historically, the growth in car use has been associated with trends of suburbanisation and counter-urbanisation. More recently in England, there has been a slowing and even a reversal of these trends. These coincide with a similar pattern in car use itself. This paper explores the extent to which these two trends are related. It utilises data from the Census of Population and the National Travel Survey since 1971 to identify the shifts in population between different area-types and their implications for per capita car use. The most recent decade has been distinguished by rapid growth in total population due to an increase in births and net international immigration. These increases are shown to be concentrated in London and certain other cities and have accelerated the changed trend in population distribution. The spatial dimension of contemporary demographic projections and their implications for future car use are identified as are the potential effects of the Coalition Government's policy to reduce net immigration. For convenience the neutral assumption is made that per capita car use by area-type remains constant, but this could be negated by a range of factors consequent on changed socio-economic conditions since 2008 including the Government's relaxation of previous planning policies which have contributed to the urban renaissance thus far.
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Keywords: car use; counter-urbanisation; peak car; population distribution; urban renaissance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Planning, Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane Oxford, OX3 0BP, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2013

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