North West: Demographics, Density & Migration Patterns

North West


Our Regional Market Report series examines the trends of each local planning authority (LPA) in the North West. 

In this report we look at the demographic changes of each LPA, and the forecast ahead. 


North West Region Population Change & Population Density

Over a decade (2011 to 2021) the North West grew by 5.1% from a population of 7,055,961 to 7,416,130. This is less than England's population growth in the same time period – 6.37% (from 53,107,169 to 56,490,645). 

Over the next decade (2021 to 2031), the ONS forecasts the North West's growth to slow to 3.16% rising from 7,416,130 to 7,650,231. This is still less than England's forecasted growth – a slower 5.13% (56,490,645 to 59,389,102) than before.

The North West has a population density of 526 people per sq km, denser than England's overall 434 people per sq km.

Look below to see the data for each LPA in both column chart and choropleth form (heatmaps). If you're viewing this on the web you can hover each bar in the chart to get more data for the LPA, and filter by county. 



In the North West overall, Salford stands out with the highest population growth at 15.09%. In contrast, Copeland experienced a decrease in population, recording the lowest growth rate at -5.02%

Within Greater Manchester, Salford of course leads at 15.09%. The county's lowest growth is seen in Trafford, with a rate of 3.50%. 

Over in Merseyside, Knowsley outpaced all other LPAs with population growth of 5.87%, while Wirral barely changed with a meager growth of 0.09%.

In Cheshire, Cheshire West and Chester experienced the highest population growth at 8.40%. Halton on the other had saw the least growth at 2.18%.

Cumbria shows growth of Eden at 4.23%, yet Copeland saw a decrease in population growth at -5.02%.

Lastly, in Lancashire, Chorley saw an impressive growth of 9.41%, while Blackpool declined by -0.76%. 



Unsurprisingly the highest population density is in the urban powerhouse of Manchester at 4,755 people per sq km, Liverpool is a close second at 4,332 people per sq km, and if this was a Olympic podium finish, Blackpool would take the bronze at 4042 people per sq km. Rural Eden is the least dense at 26 people per sq km.

In Greater Manchester, Manchester is of course the most dense, but Oldham records the lowest density of 1,701 people per sq km.

Over in Merseyside, Liverpool once again is the most dense, yet St. Helens is the least dense with 1,345 people per sq km.

In Cheshire, Halton tops the list with a density of 1,626 people per sq km, contrasted by Cheshire East with a lower density of 343 people per sq km.

Turning to Cumbria, Barrow-in-Furness has the highest population density with 865 people per sq km, and Eden is once again the least dense.

Finally, Lancashire shows Blackpool with a density of 4,042 people per sq km, while Ribble Valley has the smallest figure, with 106 people per sq km. 

North West Migration Patterns & Population Change Components

England saw a net population increase of 757,308 people in the 2021 Census, and the North West made up 10.66% of this change, with a net population change of 80,706 individuals. 77,688 more individuals were born more than individuals died, net internal migration to the North East was made up of 2,813 individuals, or 0.04% of the population, and net international migration contributed 205 people to this population increase, or 0.0028% of the region's population.

Net population change takes into account net internal migration, net international migration, and births minus deaths. A breakdown of each of the components below can be seen in the chart below. 

Region-wide, Cheshire East experienced the greatest increase in population with a net change of 1,853, while Manchester witnessed a decrease with a net loss of -2,042 individuals.

In Greater Manchester, Salford topped the chart with an increase of 884 people, whereas Manchester again saw the greatest decrease.

Merseyside had its own highs and lows: Sefton's population increased by 517, while Liverpool faced a decline, with a net loss of 1,572 people.

In Cheshire, Cheshire East saw the highest rise in population with a net gain of 1,853 people, in contrast to Halton, where the population increased only by 112 individuals.

Looking at Cumbria, South Lakeland reported the highest net gain in population, with an increase of 281 people. On the other hand, Barrow-in-Furness had a marginal decrease of -5 people.

Lastly, in Lancashire, Wyre saw an increase of 562 people, whereas Lancaster reported a net decline of -723 individuals.



North West Age Demographics

The North West's median age of 40.6 years is not too different from England's overall median age of 40.49 years. However the North East's age has remained stable, with the median age only going up by 0.55 years in the decade spanning 2011 and 2021, while in England the median age has gone up by 1.1 years. 



Region-wide, South Lakeland stands out as having the oldest median age of 51.26 years, while urban Manchester boasts the youngest median age of 31.35 years. In terms of change over the past decade, Eden saw the largest increase in median age, shifting by 4.03 years from 46.76 to 50.79.

In Greater Manchester, the oldest median age is found in Stockport at 42.26 years, whereas the youngest is again in Manchester. The biggest decade-long change within Greater Manchester is in Stockport, with a subtle increase of 0.25 years, highlighting the stable average age of the county.

For Merseyside, Sefton claims the oldest median age at 46.14 years, while Liverpool enjoys the youngest at 36.05 years. Over the past decade, the biggest shift in median age in this county has been in Wirral, where it has increased by 1.69 years.

In Cheshire, Cheshire East has the oldest median age of 45.54 years, contrasted by Halton, which has the youngest at 41.51 years. Cheshire East also witnessed the largest decade-long change in median age, increasing by 1.81 years.

In Cumbria, South Lakeland not only has the region's oldest median age at 51.26 years, but it has also seen the biggest decade-long change with a rise of 3.09 years. The youngest median age in Cumbria is in Barrow-in-Furness at 44.05 years.

Lastly, in Lancashire, Fylde carries the oldest median age at 50.91 years, whereas Preston holds the youngest at 36.35 years. Over the past ten years, Fylde has undergone the biggest change, with its median age increasing by 3.72 years.

North West Income Profile

The North West's median income of £30,822 is a bit lower than England's overall median wage of £33,208. However its wage growth of 25.06% (£24,646 to £30,822) between 2012 and 2022, is marginally higher than England's 23.79% (£26,828 to £33,208). 


Region wide, Trafford sees the highest median wages at £37,889, whereas Blackpool has the lowest at £24,571. The most significant change in income over the past decade (2012 to 2022) has been in Allerdale with considerable growth of 42,53% from £23,749 to £33,849. 

In Greater Manchester, Trafford once again stands out as the highest, while Oldham has the lowest median income at £27,167. Salford saw the greatest change in the county with incomes rising by 30.05% from £23,916 to £31,102.

Moving on to Merseyside, St. Helens has the highest median income at £32,885, while Liverpool has the lowest at £30,590. The county's most significant income change occurred in Knowsley, where it grew by 32.76% from £23,275 to £30,901. 

In Cheshire, Cheshire East has the highest median income of £34,569, and Halton has the lowest median income at £32,103. Halton also witnessed the biggest change in income with an increase of 35.02% from £23,776 to £32,103.

Looking to Cumbria, the highest median income is found in Copeland at £36,224, while Eden has the lowest at £29,174. The most substantial change in income happened in Allerdale, which saw the most wage growth in the region.

Finally, in Lancashire, the highest median income is in Ribble Valley at £34,627, contrasting with Blackpool which has the lowest median income at £24,571. Ribble Valley also saw the greatest change in income, with a rise of 34.42% from £25,760 to £34,627.

Related Resources

If you've enjoyed the data insights about land constraints in the North West, check out our other planning reports for the region below: