Is UK full?

Population Density to EU Regulations
Major EU countries2011

Rank Country Population (Millions) Area km2 Density pop/km2
63 Netherlands 16.7 33,730 496
22 UK 63.2 244,168 259
16 Germany 81.3 346,610 235
23 Italy 61.3 294140 208
95 Switzerland 7.9 40,000 198
33 Poland 38.4 304,200 126
21 France 65.6 547,660 120
27 Spain 47.0 498,800 94


Source: Google "Public Data" — "World development ..." — Environment — Population Density — Choose country.

Population Density by Region 2011

This chart shows the density for the top and bottom Counties, Authorities and Towns in the UK.

Top 10 All Land Bottom 10 All Land
London 5223 Wiltshire 146
Portsmouth 5089 East Ridings 139
Southampton 4733 Isles of Scilly 134
Luton 4696 Devon 112
Leicester 4,494 Rutland 99
Slough 4,323 Shropshire 96
Southend 4,174 Herefordshire 84
Nottingham 4,073 N Yorkshire 70
Blackpool 4,077 Cumbria 74
Bournmouth 3,974 Northumberland 63


Source Wikipedia

UK Population Density 2011

63,181,800 people live in the UK
242,509.3 sq km area of UK
Population Density = 261 pop/km2
1. Interactive population data BBC News or ONS
2. UK land area 2011 from ONS.Standard Area Measurements.

Population density is the total number of people residing in a country on a particular date divided by the land area.

The land area is the total land mass of a country less any water over 1sq km. This is an EU directive. It actually makes little sense as it includes mountains, marshes, roads etc. which are not usable for housing. A good example is Netherlands as it is smaller than Switzerland but has more than twice the population density. This is because the Netherlands is flat and Switzerland is one big mountain.

Land Usage Surveys break down land usage into categories so it should be possible to quantify how much land is used to house people together with their gardens. The resulting land area would not include lands which would be impractical to live on such as mountains, rivers, defense, roads, offices, factories, farmland, woodlands, heaths, marshes etc.



UK Population Density 2011 Non EU Regulations

No sources for the UK and Regions give the Urban Land Usage directly; the % data below comes from the Countryside Survey 2007, it is for “Built-up and Gardens” and “Unsurveyed urban land”

2011 (1)
Land Area
km2 (2)
Urban Usage
%       km2
    UK     63,181,800     242,509    12.1 4     29,101 2,172
    England     53,012,500     130,279    16.5 5     21,235 2,496
    Scotland       5,295,000       77,932      6.3 3       4,910 1,074
    Wales       3,063,500       20,735      6.9 6       1,431 2,141
    N Ireland       1,810,900       13,562     10.5 7      1,424 1272


1. Population Census 2011 from ONS
2. UK land coverage 2007 from ONS
3. Data for Scotland, 80% live on 5% of land from SNH (6.3 = 5/0.8) Not available.
4. UK Urban usage is calculated from the 4 regions.
5. England. Built-up Urban & Gardens + Unsurveyed Urban land Countryside Survey 2007 England
6. Wales. Built-up Urban & Gardens + Unsurveyed Urban land. Countryside Survey 2007 Wales
7. Northern Ireland. Built-up Urban & Gardens + Building & Curtilage. Countryside Survey 2007 N Ireland
8. UK Summary Chapter 9

UK & London Population Density 2011

London 15,730 Tower Hamlets 64,250 Enfield 12,240
North East 9,058 Westminster 55,110 Kingston 11,240
North West 8,590 City of London 44,210 Barnet 10,870
Yorkshire & Humberside 7,900 Kensington 37,330 Harrow 10,290
West Midlands 7,060 Islington 37,060 Sutton 9,970
East Midlands 6,580 Sothwark 34,060 Bexley 9,870
East of England 5,930 Hackney 35,580 Hillingdon 9,640
South East 5,920 Camden 33,810 Croyden 9,540
South West 5,680 Hammersmith 30,740 Havering 8,470
ENGLAND   7,410 Lambeth 25,340 Bromley 7,190


Population from 2011 census.
Standard Land Area Measurements.
The land area data is for Buildings & Gardens only 2007.
2005 Land % Useage from Census ward level GLUD 2005 Excel table
Full data from UK & London Population Density PDF or Excel


Editor's Comments 6/01/13

Revised with census data

New Data

ONS Standard Land Measurements (1 Jan 2011)

244,146.6     UK           To high water mark in km2
130,431.8     England
  78,806.6     Scotland
  20,778.5     Wales
  14,129.7     N Ireland

Office of National Statistics

Editor's Comments 14/08/11

New mid 2010 population stats and revised UK land areas Jan 2011


Editor's Comments 10/07/10

UK's Population Density cannot be calculated with available data.

I thought that this would be the easiest section to start with. How wrong could I be? The starting point was to find the area of the UK and Regions. As an engineer use to using Standard facts, I was amazed to find very few answers and then there was no consistency at all.

From there it got worse. Every Population Density figures I found were fundamentally incorrect as the area used in the calculations included all land, such as mountains, roads, rivers that would be impractical to build on.
I eventually found some data for London. Tower Hamlets 60,000/km sq. A lot different to the usual quote figure of 254.

The Countryside Survey looks beautiful but the data categories were inconsistent, no overall land sizes were referred to and Northern Ireland was found on its own website with no links to it.

The Next stage is to find correct data and put it in the public domain.

Editor to Office of National Statistics 16/07/10

In researching data on UK population density, using your data, I have calculated that the population density of Tower Hamlets is 60,300/km sq.
Am I correct?

Editor to Office of National Statistics 20/07/10

My argument is simple, it concerns the way in which you calculate the land area.
Your figures include areas which would be impossible to live on such as mountains, rivers, roads, railways etc and areas which would be inappropriate to use to live on such as woodlands, farmlands, green belt etc.
This leaves land used for housing and their gardens. My figures for B & G come from Land Use GLUD 2005.

From Office of National Statistics 30/07/10

I will try and address your concerns about the population density figures. I have used the information you have included in your e-mail and the table you attached.

Your first e-mail concerned your calculation of the population density of Tower Hamlets. You calculated that the population density of Tower Hamlets is 60,300/km sq, and asked us if you are correct.
From your e-mail and attached file, I deduced that you used the "Area of Domestic Buildings" + "Area of domestic gardens". From the Land Use GLUD 2005 file you are using this is equal to 3,657 metres squared, or about 3.657 km sq. The population of Tower Hamlets is estimated at 234,800 for 2009. This means the population density for Tower Hamlets using your chosen definition of land area is 64,203.7 /km sq (or 64,194/km sq using the unrounded 2009 population estimate). This is close to your figure of 64,150 (Please can you let me know how you arrived at your figure? I think the small difference is due to rounding?)

So in this respect the figures are roughly similar. However, the difference between definitions of land area is what is causing the difference. ONS Population density figures are calculated using land areas derived from Standard Area Measurement figures created by ONS. Areas are calculated to the Mean High Water mark, and exclude inland water bodies greater than 1 sq km. These land area definitions are the standard used for comparability across the UN and the EU and consistent with standard methodology for calculating population density. This standard is most likely chosen because it better reflects the occupation of space per person and is therefore more useful.

If we only use "Area of Domestic Buildings" + "Area of domestic gardens" and ignore green spaces, parks, woods, forests, farmed land, national parks, mountains etc, we can wind up with a situation where the population density of, say, the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides (Highland Council area) is considered to have a similar population density as Hampshire (because the size of domestic buildings and gardens might be roughly the same between the two areas). This is just a theoretical example. Including areas such as green spaces, parks, cultivated areas, national parks, woods and forests in the population density calculations provides a more meaningful indicator of population density for many reasons.
The use of only "Area of Domestic Buildings" + "Area of domestic gardens" for population density calculations is also subject to a large margin of error because of differences in housing. The area occupied by a high-rise flat building in London may be the same as the area occupied by a detached house with a garden in Hampshire, but there is a big differences in the number of people who live in the two areas and individuals living the flats may have the same amount of living space each as the family living in the house.
The population density of Tower Hamlets is 11,876 people per sq. km.


Editor to Office of National Statistics 02/08/10

On the Land use GLUD spreadsheet I calculated the % of land used for Buildings + Gardens in relation to the total land area.
City of London       8%
Harrow                44%
Tower Hamlets     15%
London               30%
England                5%
These figures reinforce my argument that the land area should be the land that is actually used for Dwellings not the total area. The City 7% is empty at night because most of the land is taken up with offices. Residents are confined to a small area. Harrow 44% is "Metroland" leafy suburbs covered with Semi's and Terraced houses with gardens over a large area.
People can see this, it's not about statistics.
Having been to Switzerland and the Netherlands it is obvious that there will be a population difference as Switzerland is just one big mountain; but in reality, I would guess that Switzerland's density will be much higher than the Netherlands. The logic being that they are all crowded into a small space.
I understand your view point as you need to use statistical data that is reliable, consistent and is common to the EU and others for comparison. My background is in engineering, design, sales and marketing so my work is consumer orientated.

From Office of National Statistics 03/08/10

I understand the reasons for your point of view, that the land area should be the land that is actually used for Dwellings not the total area. Perhaps it would be most useful to clarify the differences by stating that the population densities you have calculated are based on 'dwelling area' for these reasons, and that ONS population densities are based on total land area (excluding water bodies larger than 1km2)


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