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Census shows increase in population in the East of England

Released: 16 July 2012 Download PDF (92.6 Kb)

The population of the East of England on census day (27 March 2011) was more than 5.8 million, an increase of 8 per cent from 2001 when it was 5.4 million. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the first results from the 2011 Census today.

By comparison the population across the whole of England and Wales increased by 7 per cent to 56.1 million, the largest growth in population in any 10-year period since census taking began in 1801. 

Jil Matheson, National Statistician said:

"I'd like to thank everyone in the East of England for their support. The 2011 Census has been a resounding success and I am proud of the incredible effort that has been put in. It is a rich source of information about the population and its characteristics. Across England and Wales around 19 out of 20 people responded and we have excellent statistical methods for ensuring we have a complete estimate of the whole population. These statistics will provide valuable information for planners, policy-makers and the public for years to come."

Most local authorities in the region increased in population since 2001, although Tendring had a small decrease (0.6 per cent). Peterborough grew the most with a population increase since 2001 of 26,200 (17 per cent).

The largest local authority in the East of England by population was Central Bedfordshire with 254,000 people, an increase of 20,400 (9 per cent) between 2001 and 2011.

Forest Heath was the local authority with the fewest people (59,700).

Luton was the most densely populated with almost 4,700 people per square kilometre, which equates to around 47 people on a rugby pitch. The least densely populated was Breckland, with 100 people per square kilometre.

The local authority with the largest proportion of people aged 65 and over was North Norfolk with 29 per cent; the smallest proportion was in Luton (12 per cent). Conversely, Luton had the largest proportion of people aged 19 and under (28 per cent) and North Norfolk the smallest (19 per cent).

Across England and Wales there has been a 13 per cent increase in the number of children under five, with over 400,000 more than in 2001. In the East of England there were 40,000 more under-fives compared to 2001, an increase of 12 per cent. Luton had the largest proportion in this age group with 8 per cent, with the smallest proportion in North Norfolk (4 per cent).

The total number of households in the East of England was 2.4 million. Luton had the highest average household size with 2.7 people, with the lowest in Norwich (2.1).

Glen Watson, Census Director said:

 "The whole operation has worked well. We met our targets both for response and quality. We’ve had fantastic support from the public, and also from voluntary groups, community groups and local authorities throughout England and Wales. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone involved, including the 35,000 people who worked on the data collection and helped to make the census a success."

Read the full report.

Local Authorities in East of England ranked by population size in 2011 Census

East of England 2011 population 2001 population Change 2001-2011 (per cent)
Central Bedfordshire 254,400 234,000 8.7
Luton 203,200 185,900 9.3
Peterborough 183,600 157,400 16.6
Basildon 174,500 165,900 5.2
Southend-on-Sea 173,600 160,400 8.2
Colchester 173,100 156,000 11
Huntingdonshire 169,500 157,200 7.8
Chelmsford 168,300 157,300 7
Thurrock 157,700 143,300 10
Bedford 157,500 148,100 6.3
South Cambridgeshire 148,800 130,500 14
King's Lynn and West Norfolk 147,500 135,600 8.8
Braintree 147,100 132,500 11
Dacorum 144,800 137,800 5.1
St Albans 140,600 129,200 8.8
Tendring 138,000 138,800 -0.6
East Hertfordshire 137,700 129,100 6.7
Ipswich 133,400 117,200 13.8
Norwich 132,500 122,400 8.3
Breckland 130,500 121,600 7.3
North Hertfordshire 127,100 117,100 8.5
Epping Forest 124,700 121,000 3.1
Broadland 124,700 118,800 5
Suffolk Coastal 124,300 115,200 7.9
South Norfolk 124,000 110,800 11.9
Cambridge 123,900 109,900 12.7
Waveney 115,300 112,500 2.5
St Edmundsbury 111,000 98,300 12.9
Welwyn Hatfield 110,500 97,600 13.2
North Norfolk 101,500 98,500 3
Hertsmere 100,000 94,500 5.8
Great Yarmouth 97,300 90,900 7
Mid Suffolk 96,700 87,000 11.1
Fenland 95,300 83,700 13.9
Broxbourne 93,600 87,200 7.3
Watford 90,300 80,400 12.3
Castle Point 88,000 86,700 1.5
Babergh 87,700 83,500 5
Three Rivers 87,300 82,900 5.3
Stevenage 84,000 79,800 5.3
East Cambridgeshire 83,800 73,400 14.2
Rochford 83,300 78,700 5.8
Harlow 81,900 78,800 3.9
Uttlesford 79,400 69,000 15.1
Brentwood 73,600 68,500 7.4
Maldon 61,600 59,600 3.4
Forest Heath 59,700 56,100 6.4

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Background notes

  1. The census provides the most accurate estimate possible for the population of England and Wales and has been carried out every 10 years since 1801, apart from 1941, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The information provided to ONS is used solely for the census, is anonymised and protected for 100 years. Census day was on 27 March 2011. All census population numbers refer to that day.
  2. Government uses the census statistics to allocate funding for services such as education, transport and health. Policy makers in central and local government use the census to identify the needs of different communities and they are also used by commercial enterprises. It also provides the benchmark for future population estimates and for sample surveys.
  3. The ‘median’ is the value halfway up an ordered list of numbers. The median age is the age that half of the population are older than and half are younger than.
  4. For the first time every census questionnaire form could be filled out and returned on-line and 16 per cent of census returns were completed on-line.
  5. The 2011 Census figures will be used to base the 2011 population mid-year estimates which are due for release in September 2012. In due course the mid-year population estimates for 2002-2010 will be rebased.

  6. National statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the National Statistics Code of Practice. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.
  7. The second release, due between November 2012 and February 2013, will feature more detailed statistics including national identity, ethnicity, marital and civil partnership status, and religion.
  8. The regions referred to conform to standard statistical regions.
  9. For the latest on census, follow us on Twitter@2011censusinfo
  10. Some facts about the collection of census data:
    • The 25 million 32-page (16 sheets of paper) questionnaires sent to households in England and Wales were printed at the rate of eight questionnaires per second
    • Stacked up, they would be 200 times the height of The Shard
    • Questionnaires were processed at a rate of 170,000 per day
    • Questionnaires were printed on paper from sustainable sources and 1,700 tonnes were destroyed and recycled after processing
  11. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

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