The latest population estimates for mid-2019 were produced last week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). These show that net migration into Cornwall from the rest of the UK is still running at a historically high level. The estimated figure of 5,527 net migrants in 2018-19 was the highest since 2003, with the one exception of 2016-17.
Population overall did not rise as much, partly because there were 1,238 more deaths than births among the resident population and partly because of a net international exodus of 553, presumably the brexit effect.
Cornwall’s population was estimated to be nearly 566,000 in the middle of last year, an increase of around 200,000 over the past 50 years, the size of a fair-sized city. In 1976 Cornwall’s planners estimated that to ‘maintain the physical character of Cornwall’ its ideal population should be 430,000. We waved that number goodbye many years ago in 1981. The planners now assure us that there is no capacity problem. Indeed, Cornwall Council stresses there is ‘no upper ceiling’ to the number of houses that are going to be built. Somewhat ironically, this appeared in a document on its plans to tackle climate change.
Meanwhile, the ONS is now also projecting a 20% growth in the number of households in Cornwall by 2040. This is a hefty increase from the 14% over the next 20 years in their last forecast just two years ago. A 20% growth in households presumably means a 20% increase in the size of the built environment. In just 20 years!
A high population growth rate has now been sustained for the past 60 years. Meanwhile, there is little sign of any breathing space that might allow Cornwall and its communities to accommodate such growth rather than to be overwhelmed by it. Quite the opposite in fact, as thousands of planning permissions have been handed out to build houses and most of them are still waiting to be built.