Changing Populations and the Impact on Cities

What are we talking about today ?

  1. The proportion of Europe’s population living in cities is expected to increase from 75% to 83.7% by 2050

  2. Within that overall picture, some cities will increase massively, some will remain stable and others will see decline

  3. How will cities adapt to the different challenges these changes will create and ensure that their citizens’ needs are met?

  4. Cities account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions – how will cities manage their change in population and meet their emissions reductions targets?


Urban spread

In 2014, urban areas accounted for 22.5% of the EU’s total area and cities accounted for 4%. Cities such as Luxembourg, Stockholm and Brussels, are expected to see population growth of over 50% in the next 20 years. Accommodating this growth will involve increasing the proportion of land given over to urban areas and cities.

Whilst urban sprawl has the benefit of reducing the population density within cities, it is also seen to have costs such as (traditionally) increased dependence on cars, loss of natural habitats or agricultural land, increased energy consumption (as homes tend to be larger). 


Smart growth

Population growth, especially at large scale, is putting an increased pressure on housing, transport, infrastructure and the provision of services within a city.

The “smart growth” approach to urban planning promotes growth that improves the quality of life for citizens. Some of the key principles of smart growth include mixed land use, where workplaces, residential areas and amenities are closer together, reducing the need for long commutes and reliance on cars. Smart growth also challenges the need for (or choice of) urban sprawl and encourages development of existing infrastructure and land to accommodate growing populations, rather than spreading on to previously undeveloped land.

The operator view

Amazon, UK

This week, Amazon launched its first micromobility hub in London from which fleets of cargo-bikes and walkers will make over five million deliveries a year across more than 10% of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. It will surely replace many vans but will create additional demand on the bike lanes, sidewalks and curbs.


Transport oriented communities

Transport oriented development or transport oriented communities may offer the solution to regeneration and growth. The goal of transport oriented communities is to balance the value and profits of developers with the needs and quality of life of existing local people. Development is centred around new or improved transport links (such as railways or metro stations) that make office space, retail, leisure, hospitality, homes and public spaces more accessible and therefore make the area more desirable.

People are at the heart of the planning process and design, as planners consider and understand the concerns, aspirations and needs of the local community and effective stakeholder engagement is key to success. Transport is more than just getting from a to b, it is also a means to achieving wider social benefits such as health benefits from cleaner air due to reduced congestion and emissions, and increased active travel. Transport oriented communities can promote sustainable growth through proximity of services and reduced reliance on cars.


Urban Radar's takeway

Where cities are seeing their populations increase, they will need to consider how best they can accommodate this growth, whilst considering the quality of life of existing and new citizens and the impact of this population growth on the environment.

Where cities are seeing their populations decline, they will be looking for ways to encourage regrowth and regeneration, to encourage economic development and to attract and retain young individuals and families. Public investment in housing, infrastructure and services is important in these cities too, to encourage growth, rather than to accommodate it. 

Urban Radar has created Citizen’s Needs to provide cities with a tool to better visualise and understand the provision of public services, businesses and other amenities in their territory, to compare neighborhoods to ensure equality of access and provision for all citizens and identify areas where there may be deserts of provision. Citizen’s Needs can be an invaluable tool for cities looking to ensure economic development and provision of services are correctly targeted to match their citizens’ needs, whether they are seeing their populations grow or decline.