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List of conurbations in the United Kingdom: Wikis


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A conurbation is formed when towns expand sufficiently that their urban areas join up with each other. This process has happened many times in the United Kingdom. Green Belts were introduced in the 20th century to try to prevent urban sprawl and so stop new conurbations forming.

In many cases, there are differences of interpretation as to the limits of a conurbation - where it begins and ends. For the purposes of consistency, the list on this page sets out urban areas as defined by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS definition of an urban area is based on the continuously built-up area, and is as follows:-

"The definition of an urban area is an extent of at least 20 hectares and at least 1,500 residents at the time of the 2001 Census. The starting point is the identification by OS (Ordnance Survey) of areas with land use which is irreversibly urban in character. This comprises permanent structures and the land on which they are situated, including land enclosed by or closely associated with such structures; transportation corridors such as roads, railways and canals which have built up land on one or both sides, or which link built-up sites which are less than 200 metres apart; transportation features such as airports and operational airfields, railway yards, motorway service areas and car parks; mine buildings, excluding mineral workings and quarries; and any area completely surrounded by builtup sites. Areas such as playing fields and golf courses are excluded unless completely surrounded by builtup sites. The prerequisite for the recognition of an urban area is that the area of urban land should extend for 20 hectares or more. Separate areas of urban land are linked if less than 200 metres apart. Land between built-up areas is not regarded as urban unless it satisfies one of the conditions listed above."[1]


List of the 25 largest urban areas in the UK

The list below shows the most populous urban areas in the UK as defined by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Rank Urban Area[2] Population

(2001 Census)[2]

Localities[3][4] Area (km²)[2] Density (People/km²)[2] Major localities[3][4]
1 Greater London Urban Area 8,278,251 67 1,623.37 5,099.4 London (dozens of localities of broadly similar size)
2 West Midlands Urban Area 2,284,093 22 599.72 3,808.6 Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall
3 Greater Manchester Urban Area 2,240,230 57 556.72 4,024.0 Manchester, Salford, Bolton, Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Wilmslow
4 West Yorkshire Urban Area 1,499,465 26 370.02 4,052.4 Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Huddersfield
5 Greater Glasgow 1,168,270 48 368.47 3,171.0 Glasgow, Paisley, Coatbridge, Clydebank, Motherwell
6 Tyneside 879,996 25 210.91 4,172.4 Newcastle upon Tyne, North Shields, South Shields, Gateshead, Jarrow
7 Liverpool Urban Area 816,216 8 186.17 4,384.4 Liverpool, Bootle, Litherland, Huyton, Roby, Crosby, Prescot, St. Helens, Haydock
8 Nottingham Urban Area 666,358 15 158.52 4,203.6 Nottingham, Beeston and Stapleford, Carlton, Long Eaton
9 Sheffield Urban Area 640,720 7 162.24 3,949.2 Sheffield, Rotherham, Chapeltown, Mosborough/Highlane
10 Bristol Urban Area 551,066 7 139.78 3,942.4 Bristol, Kingswood, Mangotsfield, Stoke Gifford
11 Greater Belfast 483,418 7[5] 161.67 2,990.2 Belfast, Castlereagh, Greenisland, Holywood
12 Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton 461,181 10 94.09 4,901.5 Brighton, Worthing, Hove, Littlehampton, Shoreham, Lancing
13 Edinburgh 452,194 2 120.11 3,765.0 Edinburgh, Musselburgh
14 Portsmouth Urban Area 442,252 7 94.52 4,678.9 Portsmouth, Gosport, Waterlooville, Fareham
15 Leicester Urban Area 441,213 12 101.64 4,340.9 Leicester, Wigston, Oadby, Birstall
16 Bournemouth Urban Area 383,713 5 108.15 3,548.0 Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch, New Milton
17 Reading/Wokingham Urban Area 369,804 5 93.17 3,969.1 Reading, Bracknell, Wokingham, Crowthorne
18 Teesside 365,323 7 113.99 3,204.9 Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar, Billingham
19 The Potteries Urban Area 362,403 3 96.62 3,750.8 Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Kidsgrove
20 Coventry/Bedworth Urban Area 336,452 3 75.56 4,452.8 Coventry, Bedworth, Exhall
21 Cardiff Urban Area 327,706 4 75.72 4,328.0 Cardiff, Penarth, Dinas Powys, Radyr
22 Birkenhead Urban Area 319,675 5 89.11 3,587.4 Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port, Wallasey, Bebington
23 Southampton Urban Area 304,400 3 72.80 4,181.3 Southampton, Eastleigh, Bishopstoke
24 Kingston upon Hull 301,416 1 80.44 3,747.3 Kingston upon Hull
25 Swansea Urban Area 270,506 4 79.81 3,389.0 Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot, Pontardawe/Clydach


There is a spectrum that can be drawn between the conurbations that have a clear 'head' (such as Nottingham, Southampton) to those that do not - known as multi-centred conurbations (such as Bournemouth/Poole and Teesside) - via ones that are more borderline (West Midlands). In the case of the West Midlands, for example, the largest city, Birmingham did expand massively and is now considered to include areas that were formerly independent towns, such as Sutton Coldfield and Aston. However, here it stopped, with the Black Country and Wolverhampton retaining strong identities.

In various parts of the country are more borderline cases, where the areas expanded into did not necessarily have strong identities as towns. However, the areas do retain separate local government structures, and are therefore considered conurbations by the ONS, on this basis :

There are also various places where whilst not actually running into each other, the amount of development in a large area is substantial. Heavily built up areas of this type include :

The metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear is almost a quarter of the size of West Yorkshire, but the two main settlements (Newcastle/Tyneside and Sunderland/Wearside) are not part of the same conurbation due to the fact that a gap of countryside exists between South Tyneside and Sunderland, but this gap is fairly small. If these two conurbations were counted as one, the population would be 1,182,517 with Wearside containing the settlements of Sunderland, Washington and Seaham, population: 312,521. Newcastle's urban area also extends northwards into Northumberland with settlements such as Cramlington and Blyth potentially increasing the Tyneside and Wearside urban area further.

Smaller examples of conurbations also exist on a more local level. For example, Harrogate runs into Knaresborough, Warwick runs into Leamington Spa, Luton runs into Dunstable, and Grimsby runs into Cleethorpes.

In Merseyside there is a split between Liverpool Urban Area and the Birkenhead Urban Area. These two localities are often thought to be a single region, Greater Merseyside, as only the distance of the River Mersey separates them. Together, they have a population of 1,135,891. Newcastle/Gateshead, for example, does claim both sides of the River Tyne. Additionally, the Liverpool Urban Area is not consistent with the Liverpool City Region, which includes the nearby localities of Widnes and Runcorn in Halton. The Urban Region does not.

See also


  1. ^ ONS definition of urban areas
  2. ^ a b c d The UK’s major urban areas Office for National Statistics
  3. ^ a b KS01 Usual resident population Census 2001, Key Statistics for urban areas Office for National Statistics
  4. ^ a b KS01 Usual resident population, Key Statistics for Settlements and Localities Scotland General Register Office for Scotland
  5. ^ The UK’s major urban areas Office for National Statistics (Belfast Urban Area defined in footnote 6, page 16 of the pdf)


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