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List of conurbations in the United Kingdom: Map


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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 Kingdommarker. Green Belt 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."

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 Population(2001 Census) Localities Area (km²) Density (People/km²) Major localities
1 Greater London Urban Areamarker 8,278,251 67 1,623.37 5,099.4 Londonmarker (dozens of localities of broadly similar size)
2 West Midlands Urban Areamarker 2,284,093 22 599.72 3,808.6 Birminghammarker, Wolverhamptonmarker, Dudleymarker, Walsallmarker
3 Greater Manchester Urban Areamarker 2,240,230 57 556.72 4,024.0 Manchestermarker, Salfordmarker, Boltonmarker, Stockportmarker, Oldhammarker, Rochdalemarker, Burymarker, Wilmslowmarker
4 West Yorkshire Urban Areamarker 1,499,465 26 370.02 4,052.4 Leedsmarker, Bradfordmarker, Wakefieldmarker, Huddersfieldmarker
5 Greater Glasgowmarker 1,168,270 48 368.47 3,171.0 Glasgowmarker, Paisleymarker, Coatbridgemarker, Clydebankmarker, Motherwellmarker
6 Tynesidemarker 879,996 25 210.91 4,172.4 Newcastle upon Tynemarker, North Shieldsmarker, South Shieldsmarker, Gatesheadmarker, Jarrowmarker
7 Liverpool Urban Areamarker 816,216 8 186.17 4,384.4 Liverpoolmarker, Bootlemarker, Litherlandmarker, Huytonmarker, Robymarker, Crosbymarker, Prescotmarker, St. Helensmarker, Haydockmarker
8 Nottingham Urban Areamarker 666,358 15 158.52 4,203.6 Nottinghammarker, Beestonmarker and Staplefordmarker, Carltonmarker, Long Eatonmarker
9 Sheffield Urban Areamarker 640,720 7 162.24 3,949.2 Sheffieldmarker, Rotherhammarker, Chapeltownmarker, Mosboroughmarker/Highlane
10 Bristol Urban Areamarker 551,066 7 139.78 3,942.4 Bristolmarker, Kingswoodmarker, Mangotsfieldmarker, Stoke Giffordmarker
11 Greater Belfast 483,418 7 161.67 2,990.2 Belfastmarker, Castlereagh, Greenislandmarker, Holywoodmarker
12 Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton 461,181 10 94.09 4,901.5 Brightonmarker, Worthingmarker, Hovemarker, Littlehamptonmarker, Shorehammarker, Lancingmarker
13 Edinburghmarker 452,194 2 120.11 3,765.0 Edinburghmarker, Musselburghmarker
14 Portsmouth Urban Areamarker 442,252 7 94.52 4,678.9 Portsmouthmarker, Gosportmarker, Waterloovillemarker, Farehammarker
15 Leicester Urban Areamarker 441,213 12 101.64 4,340.9 Leicestermarker, Wigstonmarker, Oadbymarker, Birstallmarker
16 Bournemouth Urban Areamarker 383,713 5 108.15 3,548.0 Bournemouthmarker, Poolemarker, Christchurchmarker, New Miltonmarker
17 Reading/Wokingham Urban Areamarker 369,804 5 93.17 3,969.1 Readingmarker, Bracknellmarker, Wokinghammarker, Crowthornemarker
18 Teessidemarker 365,323 7 113.99 3,204.9 Middlesbroughmarker, Stockton-on-Teesmarker, Redcarmarker, Billinghammarker
19 The Potteries Urban Areamarker 362,403 3 96.62 3,750.8 Stoke-on-Trentmarker, Newcastle-under-Lymemarker, Kidsgrovemarker
20 Coventry/Bedworth Urban Areamarker 336,452 3 75.56 4,452.8 Coventrymarker, Bedworthmarker, Exhallmarker
21 Cardiff Urban Area 327,706 4 75.72 4,328.0 Cardiffmarker, Penarthmarker, Dinas Powysmarker, Radyrmarker
22 Birkenhead Urban Area 319,675 5 89.11 3,587.4 Birkenheadmarker, Ellesmere Portmarker, Wallaseymarker, Bebingtonmarker
23 Southampton Urban Areamarker 304,400 3 72.80 4,181.3 Southamptonmarker, Eastleighmarker, Bishopstokemarker
24 Kingston upon Hullmarker 301,416 1 80.44 3,747.3 Kingston upon Hullmarker
25 Swansea Urban Area 270,506 4 79.81 3,389.0 Swanseamarker, Neathmarker, Port Talbotmarker, Pontardawemarker/Clydachmarker


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 Coldfieldmarker and Astonmarker. 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 containting the settlements of Sunderlandmarker, Washingtonmarker and Seahammarker, population: 312,521. Newcastle's urban area also extends northwards into Northumberlandmarker with settlements such as Cramlingtonmarker and Blyth potentially increasing the Tyneside and Wearside urban area further.

Smaller examples of conurbations also exist on a more local level. For example, Harrogatemarker runs into Knaresboroughmarker, Warwickmarker runs into Leamington Spamarker, Lutonmarker runs into Dunstablemarker, and Grimsbymarker runs into Cleethorpesmarker.

In Merseyside there is a split between Liverpool Urban Areamarker and the Birkenhead Urban Area. Both of these localities are thought by many to be Greater Merseyside as only the distance of the river Merseymarker separates them. This gives a population of 1,135,891. Where the Newcastle/Gateshead conurbation claims both sides of the river, Liverpool does not. The Liverpool Urban Area is also disputed, excluding the nearby localities of Widnes and Runcorn in Halton, which are part of the Liverpool City Regionmarker, and further to the north Southportmarker and Warringtonmarker which could be justified on the same grounds, if not with more depth than Mancunian claims to Boltonmarker and Rochdalemarker.

See also


  1. ONS definition of urban areas
  2. The UK’s major urban areas Office for National Statistics
  3. KS01 Usual resident population Census 2001, Key Statistics for urban areas Office for National Statistics
  4. 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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