Townscapes: The North East



Benjamin Goodair, Research Assistant, Bennett Institute for Public Policy
Professor Michael Kenny, Director, Bennett Institute for Public Policy


October 2019

About this report

This is the first in a series of papers analysing the fortunes of towns across Britain. The analysis draws upon data relating to public service provision, economic outcomes and demographic changes.

This report examines towns in North-East England.

Key Findings

  • The North East is one of the country’s weakest and most deprived regional economies. Most of its towns have experienced faster economic and demographic decline than the average town in Britain.
  • About two thirds of the region’s towns have levels of household deprivation higher than the mean average for British towns.
  • The urban cluster around Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland has not generated as much economic growth for surrounding towns as other regions, even though it is unusual in how close most of its towns are to the nearest city centre – the usual agglomeration effects are not operating.
  • The North East towns with the fastest economic and population growth are those with the greatest access to health services.
  • Compared to towns in other regions, the North East’s towns have fewer nurseries and pre/after school clubs, and more Job Centres and police stations.

About Townscapes

The declining economic fortunes of many towns, and the chasm that divides the experiences and outlooks of many of their inhabitants from the metropolitan centres where wealth and power have become concentrated, are issues of growing interest in political life and public policy.

In the UK, the preponderance of support for Brexit among town-dwellers, and the countervailing values of many young urbanites, has sparked a deep debate about how and why towns are locked out of the circuits of growth in the modern economy, and how the inequalities associated with economic geography can be more effectively tackled.

Our Townscapes project offers a deeper analysis of how towns are faring across the regions of Britain and elsewhere. It aims to step away from the generalisations and dogmas that infuse much of the contemporary policy debate and offer instead a more finely grained picture of how different towns relate to their wider regions and nations, as well as to their nearest cities. It showcases the merits of a more granular and regionally rooted perspective for our understanding of geographical inequalities and the kinds of policy needed to address them.


  • About the author

    Professor Michael Kenny, Co-Director, Bennett Institute for Public Policy

    Professor Kenny directs the Institute’s place and public policy programme.   Learn more

    Mike Kenny