North Population to Fall, Says Report

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Byline: By Zoe Hughes Political Editor

The need to build 170,000 houses in the North-East was thrown into doubt last night after official figures suggested that the region's population would decline by more than 50,000 over the next 25 years.

As council and business leaders all plan for a rise in the number of people moving to the region, the government's own statistics office has warned that the population will decline by 2pc up to 2028 ( with most people deserting big towns and cities.

The Office for National Statistics yesterday said the number of people living in the North-East was expected to move against national trends and drop by 50,300 in the next 25 years, from a base of 2.5m last year to an estimated 2.48m in 2028.

The North-East will be the only region to experience any drop in population across England, with the East of England and the South-West benefiting by rises of up to almost 17pc.

The figures bring into question demands from regional council bosses for 170,000 new homes over 17 years ( the equivalent of building a town the size of Berwick every year until 2021.

The unelected North-East Regional Assembly argues that population rates are likely to increase instead of decrease, saying last night it would not plan for "decline".

Nera assistant director of regional development Malcolm Bowes said the ONS figures were unreliable: "If past trends continue then there will be lower populations, not as many houses will be needed and this would mean the potential for higher unemployment.

"It is a future but not one we plan for," he said.

"This data is based on whatever happened in the past continuing to happen and I don't think you'll find anyone in the region who agrees this is a good way to plan for the future."

The ONS figures do, however, indicate worrying trends for the North-East, in particular the move from urban areas to the suburbs and country.

Gateshead, Newcastle, South Tyneside and Sunderland can all expect to suffer from population decline while most of Northumberland will rise.

County Durham is also expected to see populations fall, some of the worst affected places being Easington and Wear Valley. …