A poll conducted from the 5th to 7th of August in London by Redfield & Wilton Strategies has revealed that 33% of Londoners are considering moving away from London permanently. As millions have been working from home, some city dwellers’ priorities have shifted, with many now looking for more space and greater proximity to nature now that continuing to work from home becomes a possibility for an increasing number. Anecdotal evidence, and data from estate agents about growing interest in village destinations has suggested that many Londoners are starting to think about a life out of the capital, a trend our poll backs up.

Those aged 18 to 24 (39%) and 25 to 34 (40%) are especially likely to be considering a move away from the city. Younger respondents are more likely to live in smaller spaces such as flat shares. Many younger workers have been working and sleeping from the same room, making for a particularly claustrophobic lockdown experience.  This experience has perhaps made them more likely to consider moving to a bigger space or back home to their parents. Additionally. young people are increasingly struggling to get on the housing ladder in the Capital due to high property prices. A move outside of London is often the most feasible way to buy a first property for young people. Respondents with young families may also be looking to relocate for more space for their children. Older respondents, meanwhile, are more likely to have firmer roots in their present locale, making it harder for them to contemplate moving.

When those considering moving away from London are asked where they would move to, the most popular destination is the South West of England (23%). Cornwall has been an extremely popular staycation destination in recent weeks. The access to the sea and outdoors makes the region an attractive alternative to cramped urban living conditions. Despite being fairly inaccessible from London, the South West is still very popular, demonstrating how many are less concerned about being near a city workplace. The South West is also popular among 18-to-24-year olds (24%) and 25-to-34-year olds (25%). These respondents might not be thinking so much of the rural areas in the South West, but rather about the region’s urban centres such as Bristol, which have strong local economies and a high quality of life and might therefore pose a strong alternative to their lifestyle in London.

The South East, the traditional destination for those moving out of London due to its proximity and strong transport links to the capital, is still popular (21%).  These respondents are more likely to be those who still need to be able to get to London relatively quickly when necessary but want more space and access to the countryside. The third most popular choice is, in fact, moving abroad (15%). It is especially popular among respondents aged 18-to-24 (24%).

However, only 5% of those considering a move are ‘certain’ and a further 14% ‘reasonably likely’ to make a move this year. Altogether, the number of respondents who are certain or reasonably likely to make a move this year amounts to approximately 6% of our overall sample.

In fact, a plurality (44%) of this sub-group say it is quite unlikely that they will indeed move this year. These results suggest that for many respondents, a move away from London is an abstract ambition rather than a fixed plan. 37% say they are somewhat likely to make a move, suggesting a significant proportion are in no rush to make a decision, especially while uncertainty from the pandemic continues.

Roughly a quarter (23%) of respondents say they are considering moving elsewhere within London.

Only a fifth (21%) of those considering moving somewhere else in London are certain or reasonably likely to do so, reaching up to 5% of our overall sample. 39% are quite unlikely and 40% are somewhat likely. While many respondents evidently have no definitive plans, the time spent working and living inside their homes have clearly sparked new ideas and new priorities.

Prior to the pandemic, many respondents’ hectic city lives likely did not leave much time to think about their living space. As lockdown has caused millions to work from home, many in the capital will have gained a new perspective on their urban lifestyle. Our poll suggests that a significant minority have used this time of reflection to think about moving elsewhere. At the same time, either the logistical complications thrown up by the pandemic, or respondents wanting to be sure of their decision, means that London seems unlikely to see an exodus of a third of its residents in the near future. Instead, there could well be a steady drain away towards the South East and South West. However, depending on how many people continue to move into the capital every year, the overall demographic shifts may remain small for now, with new generations of Londoners replacing those who move away.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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