List of Primary Urban Areas in England by population

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This is a list of Primary Urban Areas in England ordered by population, based on data from the United Kingdom Census 2001: it has not been revised with data from the United Kingdom Census 2011 and does not appear to be any longer in use.

[This article is no longer maintained and should be regarded as of historical interest only]

The concept of a Primary Urban Area was introduced by HM Government for statistical and macro-planning purposes and given the shorthand title of 'city'. In reality, a PUA may contain multiple settlements, even multiple cities. It should not be confused with 'urban areas' or 'built-up areas' that are more rigorously defined by the Office for National Statistics – or even City status in the United Kingdom.

Historically, the boundaries of cities within England and the United Kingdom as a whole have remained largely undefined,[citation needed] leading to difficulties in comparisons between them. However, a definitive list of cities in the United Kingdom, which in itself would constitute a type of definition known as an Extensional definition (specifically, an enumerative definition) does exist,[1] though it does not define the limits of these cities. To allow such comparisons to be made the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, in conjunction with other Government departments, began compiling reports and a database to allow comparison of the English cities. This report is known as the State of the English Cities Report[2] and was maintained by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Using this definition the term "city" is used as a Primary Urban Area, which is distinct from the Office for National Statistics Urban Area agglomerations, with a total population in excess of 125,000.[3] The population figures are based on the cumulative total population of the constituent wards. This list is not the same as the list of local authorities which have been granted city status and is intended to define the physical extent of the largest urban centres. These are available from the State of the Cities Database.[4]

However, some controversy arose when using these terms, for example the Manchester PUA contains the City of Manchester and also includes that of the City of Salford which is a Metropolitan borough and has held city status since 1926. The inclusion of the City of Wolverhampton and the Black Country in the Birmingham PUA also led to a meeting of the West Midlands group of MPs where their displeasure was made clear to David Miliband, then the Minister in charge.[citation needed] This inclusion of Wolverhampton demonstrates differences between PUAs and the Eurostat equivalent, where Wolverhampton has its own Larger Urban Zone.[5][6][7]

In addition, some found controversial the use of the term 'city' to describe Primary Urban Areas such as Aldershot, Blackburn, Burnley, Bolton, Chatham, Mansfield, Milton Keynes, Reading, Rochdale and Southend since these have not been granted letters patent and are therefore formally towns.

Rank Primary Urban Area (PUA) Population
(2001 census)
County (traditional) Constituent local authorities[8] LUZ Name LUZ Size LUZ EU Rank
1 London 8,294,058 Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire Greater London, Epping Forest, Broxbourne, Dacorum, Three Rivers, Watford, Dartford, Gravesham, Elmbridge, Epsom and Ewell, Mole Valley, Runnymede, Spelthorne and Woking London 12,208,100 1
2 Birmingham 2,293,099 Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire Cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton, Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Walsall, Sandwell and Solihull Birmingham 2,284,093 21
3 Manchester 1,741,961 Lancashire and Cheshire Cities of Manchester and Salford; Metropolitan Boroughs of Tameside, Trafford, Bury, Oldham and Stockport Manchester 2,732,854 23
4 Liverpool 830,112 Lancashire Liverpool, Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley and Metropolitan Borough of St Helens Liverpool 1,365,900 41
5 Leeds 750,700 Yorkshire Leeds Leeds 1,499,465 37
6 Sheffield 551,800 Yorkshire Sheffield and Rotherham Sheffield 1,277,100 46
7 Teesside 472,200 County Durham and Yorkshire Includes Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees n/a n/a n/a
8 Bristol 428,234 Gloucestershire and Somerset Bristol Bristol 1,006,600 64
9 Bournemouth and Poole 382,536 Dorset Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole n/a n/a n/a
10 Stoke-on-Trent 360,810 Staffordshire Includes the towns of Newcastle under Lyme and Kidsgrove n/a n/a n/a
11 Leicester 329,600 Leicestershire Leicester, Blaby and Oadby and Wigston Leicester 887,000 75
12 Wirral 331,232 Cheshire Wirral, Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port and Neston Liverpool 1,365,900 41
13 Coventry 316,900 Warwickshire Coventry Coventry 651,000 97
14 Nottingham 303,900 Nottinghamshire Nottingham Nottingham 825,600 82
15 Bradford 293,717 Yorkshire Metropolitan Borough of Bradford Leeds 1,499,465 37
16 Newcastle 279,100 Tyne and Wear Newcastle Upon Tyne Newcastle Upon Tyne 1,055,600 59
17 Bolton 277,300 Lancashire Metropolitan Borough of Bolton Manchester 2,732,854 23
18 Brighton and Hove 273,400 Sussex Brighton and Hove n/a n/a n/a
19 Plymouth 256,384 Devon Plymouth n/a n/a n/a
20 Hull 256,100 Yorkshire Kingston upon Hull Kingston upon Hull 573,300 113
21 Preston 252,209 Lancashire Includes the towns of Leyland and Chorley n/a n/a n/a
22 Derby 248,700 Derbyshire Derby Nottingham 825,600 82
23 Aldershot and Farnborough 248,208 Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire Includes the towns of Aldershot, Badshot Lea, Blackwater, Camberley, Deepcut, Farnborough, Farnham, Frimley, Sandhurst and Yateley n/a n/a n/a
24 Southampton 239,700 Hampshire Southampton n/a n/a n/a
25 Wigan 237,360 Lancashire Metropolitan Borough of Wigan n/a n/a n/a
26 Barnsley 211,807 Yorkshire Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley Leeds 1,499,465 37
27 Portsmouth 205,400 Hampshire Includes the towns of Gosport, Waterlooville, Havant, Fareham and Portchester n/a n/a n/a
28 Luton 203,600 Bedfordshire Luton & Dunstable n/a n/a n/a
29 York 202,400 Yorkshire York n/a n/a n/a
30 Northampton 200,092 Northamptonshire Northampton n/a n/a n/a
31 Milton Keynes 186,949 Buckinghamshire Milton Keynes n/a n/a n/a
32 Worthing 182,817 Sussex Worthing, part of Adur, part of Arun. All the towns in the Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton conurbation are split into two PUA's, Brighton and Worthing n/a n/a n/a
33 Ipswich 180,000 Suffolk Includes the towns of Felixstowe and Woodbridge n/a n/a n/a
34 Crawley 179,987 Sussex Reigate and Banstead and Crawley n/a n/a n/a
35 Sunderland 177,739 County Durham Sunderland, Tyne and Wear Newcastle Upon Tyne 1,055,600 59
36 Southend-on-Sea 174,300 Essex Southend-on-Sea n/a n/a n/a
37 Rochdale 166,932 Lancashire Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale Manchester 2,732,854 23
38 Warrington 163,479 Lancashire Includes the town of Great Sankey Liverpool 1,365,900 41
39 Mansfield 158,496 Nottinghamshire Ashfield and Mansfield Nottingham 825,600 82
40 Swindon 155,970 Wiltshire Swindon n/a n/a n/a
41 Reading 155,300 Berkshire Reading, Berkshire n/a n/a n/a
42 Blackburn 147,700 Lancashire Blackburn with Darwen n/a n/a n/a
43 Burnley 146,419 Lancashire Burnley and Pendle n/a n/a n/a
44 Huddersfield 146,234 Yorkshire Kirklees Leeds 1,499,465 37
45 Oxford 145,095 Oxfordshire Oxford n/a n/a n/a
46 Wakefield 144,654 Yorkshire Wakefield Leeds 1,499,465 37
47 Blackpool 142,100 Lancashire Blackpool n/a n/a n/a
48 Norwich 140,100 Norfolk Norwich & Broadlands n/a n/a n/a
49 Grimsby 139,458 Lincolnshire North East Lincolnshire Kingston upon Hull 573,300 113
50 Telford 139,071 Shropshire Telford and Wrekin n/a n/a n/a
51 Peterborough 136,963 Cambridgeshire Peterborough n/a n/a n/a
52 Gloucester 135,845 Gloucester Gloucestershire n/a n/a n/a
53 Cambridge 131,144 Cambridgeshire Cambridge n/a n/a n/a
54 Doncaster 127,851 Yorkshire Doncaster n/a n/a n/a
55 Hastings 125,524 Sussex Hastings n/a n/a n/a


  1. ^ Department of Constitutional Affairs webpage defining cities. Retrieval Date: 22 July 2007.
  2. ^ "State of the English Cities Report". Department for Communities and Local Government. Archived from the original on 2007-07-04. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
  3. ^ "State of the English Cities (city definition, see 2.3.5)" (PDF). Department for Communities and Local Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-09. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
  4. ^ "State of the Cities Database (population figures)". Department for Communities and Local Government. Archived from the original on 2007-07-06. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
  5. ^ "Urban Audit Analysis II" (PDF). Eurostat. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  6. ^ "European Regional and Urban Statistics" (PDF). Eurostat. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  7. ^ "Urban Audit - City Profiles: Wolverhampton". Urban Audit. Archived from the original on 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  8. ^ State of the Cities Report; Part 2 Archived 2007-09-05 at the UK Government Web Archive