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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
London's growth 'swallows' south
London's growth consumes south

London's expansion means Cambridge and even Northampton can be counted among its suburbs, claim academics.

Norwich and Ipswich are also now part of Greater London because they lie within its immediate influence, says a Sheffield University report.

With London's commuter belt spreading, the study identifies a growing north-south economic divide.

The drift south is also leaving places like Corby in Northants with high levels of people unskilled workers.

The entire southern half of Britain - from as far north as Leicester to as far west as Plymouth - is now dominated by the Greater London metropolis where the most qualified people live, according to the Census Atlas report, which is based on the 2001 census.

The north - referred to as the Archipelago - is now defined as Wales and all counties north of Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire.

The report claims London's suburbs take in Oxford and Cambridge Universities and the beaches of Devon and Cornwall at its extremities.

The south is London and London is the south; and regional divisions in between are meaningless
Census Atlas

The report says London's commuter belt now extends up to the end of the M3 and M11 to Chepstow on the M4 and increasingly those who can, move south.

"The south is London and London is the south; and regional divisions in between are meaningless," it says.

The migration of skilled workers from the north to London between 1991 and 2001 has resulted in a divided Britain.

Nearly all of the northern cities are "slowly sinking" as they become less densely populated.

Populations fell in most major cities in the north - Manchester by 10%, Liverpool by 8% and Birmingham by 3%.

More than 1.7m jobs were created in the booming capital-based financial sector, between 1991 and 2001, accelerating growth in the south east.

Shadow Secretary for Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Caroline Spelman, said the report reinforced the need for economic growth to be spread more evenly across the country.

Minister for regeneration and social exclusion in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Yvette Cooper, said that the Government was taking steps to close the regional divide.

The BBC's Nick Thatcher
"Britain is becoming increasingly divided by geography"



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