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Census result shows increase in population of the North West

Released: 16 July 2012 Download PDF (92.2 Kb)

The population of the North West on census day (27 March 2011) was 7.1 million, an increase of 4 per cent from 2001 when it was 6.7 million. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the first results from the 2011 Census today.

The North West had the third largest population of any English region but had seen a decrease in its population between 1981 and 2001. However, the period from 2001 to 2011 saw population growth of 4 per cent – larger than in the North East but still less than the population growth in other English regions and Wales. 

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 North West 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.

Nearly all local authorities across England and Wales increased in population but eight local authorities in the North West saw a decrease in population: Barrow-in-Furness (4.0 per cent), Knowsley (3.5 per cent), Sefton (3.2 per cent), Burnley (2.7 per cent), Hyndburn (0.9 per cent), St Helens (0.8 per cent), Stockport (0.5 per cent), and Blackpool (0.2 per cent). Across all of England and Wales 17 local authorities decreased in population.

Manchester was the largest authority in the North West by population with 503,100 people, an increase of 80,400 (19 per cent) between 2001 and 2011. The percentage increase was the third largest in England and Wales behind Newham and Tower Hamlets.

The local authority with the fewest people was Eden, with 52,600 people but it still grew in population by 5.4 per cent, which is more than the average for the region.

Eden was also the least densely populated local authority in England and Wales, with 25 people per square kilometre. By contrast, Manchester was the most densely populated local authority in the region with 4,350 people per square kilometre, which equates to 43 people on a rugby pitch.

The local authority with the largest proportion of people aged 65 and over was Wyre with 25 per cent; the smallest proportion in this age group was in Manchester with 9 per cent. Blackburn with Darwen had the largest proportion of people aged 19 and under with 29 per cent, with the smallest proportion in this age group being 20 per cent in South Lakeland and Fylde.

Across England and Wales there was a 13 per cent increase in the number of children under five, with over 400,000 more in 2011 than in 2001. In the North West there were 36,500 under fives compared to 2001, an increase of 9 per cent in that period. Blackburn with Darwen had the largest proportion with 8 per cent, with the smallest proportion in South Lakeland (4.3 per cent).

The total number of households in the North West was 3 million. Blackburn with Darwen also had, along with Oldham, the largest average household size in the region, with 2.5 people; Fylde and Blackpool had the two smallest (2.1 people).

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 North West ranked by population size in 2011 Census

North West 2011 population 2001 population Change 2001-2011 (per cent)
Manchester 503,100 422,900 19
Liverpool 466,400 441,900 5.5
Cheshire East 370,100 352,000 5.1
Cheshire West and Chester 329,600 322,100 2.3
Wirral 319,800 315,000 1.5
Wigan 317,800 301,500 5.4
Stockport 283,300 284,600 -0.5
Bolton 276,800 261,300 5.9
Sefton 273,800 282,900 -3.2
Salford 233,900 217,000 7.8
Trafford 226,600 210,200 7.8
Oldham 224,900 218,500 2.9
Tameside 219,300 213,100 2.9
Rochdale 211,700 206,400 2.6
Warrington 202,200 191,200 5.8
Bury 185,100 180,700 2.4
St. Helens 175,300 176,800 -0.8
Blackburn with Darwen 147,500 138,500 6.5
Knowsley 145,900 151,200 -3.5
Blackpool 142,100 142,300 -0.1
Preston 140,200 130,400 7.5
Lancaster 138,400 134,000 3.3
Halton 125,800 118,600 6.1
West Lancashire 110,700 108,500 2
South Ribble 109,100 103,900 5
Wyre 107,700 105,800 1.8
Carlisle 107,500 100,800 6.6
Chorley 107,200 100,600 6.6
South Lakeland 103,700 102,400 1.3
Allerdale 96,400 93,500 3.1
Pendle 89,500 89,300 0.2
Burnley 87,000 89,500 -2.8
Hyndburn 80,700 81,500 -1
Fylde 75,800 73,300 3.4
Copeland 70,600 69,300 1.9
Barrow-in-Furness 69,100 72,000 -4
Rossendale 68,000 65,600 3.7
Ribble Valley 57,100 54,100 5.5
Eden 52,600 49,900 5.4

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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