In which Keevil attempts to get the maximum number of possible readers, whom have clicked on a story with a title like that, to stop reading with the following sentence:

Population density is the average number of people living per km2

Still here? What about:

There is little correlation between population density and economic development.

Okay, how about a graphical representation?

Medway Council, 1 of 46 Unitary Authorities created between 1996-98 is currently 7th on that list for population size (based on 2017 National Office Statitics data) with 277,600 people. Bristol is 1st with 459,300. Medway is currently 21st for population density, however, with 1,434 per km2. Portsmouth is 1st with 5,315 per km2.

According to online economics sites (translation: Keevil lost the note of which specific site) the advantages of high population density are:

  • More workers in different fields
  • More taxpayers
  • More funds
  • Reduced costs
  • Urban areas more energy efficient
  • Greater intellectual capital.

Disadvantages include:

  • Economic burderns
  • Exploitation of water and natural resources
  • Polliution and deforestation
  • Limits to agricultural productivity
  • Congestion
  • Loss of green belt
  • Limit to road capacity.

The rise in population density has been consistent with rising living standards and a better quality of life. However, others are concerned about a strain on resources, shortages and loss of the environment.

If you are still with us, here is a visual gag from XKCD:

(In hindsight, that probably isn’t as comforting as Keevil initially thought.)

Should we be worried about rising population density in Medway? Areas of high population density are often desirable places to live, with access to commuter routes for example. People who live in more rural areas may be likely to resist moves to increase population density, becauase they are attracted to a quiet village life.

According to Medway’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment:

At first glance Medway may appear to be largely homogenous, but this belies considerable variation. The largest ward is Gillingham North, with 19,039 people, and the smallest ward is Cuxton and Halling, with 5,843 people.
There is considerable variation  in population density, ranging from 1.8 people per hectare in Peninsula ward to 85.3 people per hectare in Gillingham South in 2011.
The median density is 37 per hectare and Rainham Central, Watling and Strood South have approximately this density,
The least densely populated; Peninsula, Cuxton & Halling and Strood Rural.
The Most densely populated; Rochester East, Chatham Central and Gillingham South.

The 2016 based population projections show that the population of Medway will increase by just under 15% reaching around 317,529 by 2035 representing an increase of just over 40,500 people or a population density of 1,636km2. If split evenly, which it shouldn’t be, should it, more people should go to the urban areas, but not all of them, right, we need to protect the green belt, but the brown belt is fine. Where is the brown belt? It’s really brownfields.

The Economic Implications

  • Increasing demand for housing, both sale and rented.
    • Is Medway able to sufficiently increase supply in all wards or selected wards?
    • How far upward can the long term forecast for house prices go?
  • Tax Revenue
    • Will make it easier to deal with Medway’s ageing population.
  • Transport
    • There continues to be a significant increase in demand.
      • Yet capacity for road space is limited.
      • Bus and train services appear poorly equipped to handle current timetables at unaffordable ticket prices.
  • Reduced quality of life of greater population density.
    • Probably few people who would prefer to live in an area of greater population density.
      • People prefer green spaces to traffic congestion.
    • Tourist hotspots increasingly crowded.
      • Imagine Rochester High street during Sweeps festival. But every day.

It’s not for us to say whether increased population density is good or bad, right or wrong, left wing or right wing. What do you think?
Are increases in population density good for Medway as long as it doesn’t happen in your ward?
Are increases in population density good as long as its not unemployed foreign single mother students or commuting liberal elites? Let us know in the comments!

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