Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies

People and Place

People and Place


The ‘life chances’ of people are shaped by where they live, but equally the fortunes of places are tied to the characteristics of their residents. These place effects are dynamically re-shaped as places become increasingly connected through economic ties as well as internal and international migration. CURDS has a long research tradition on migration and commuting between areas, the characteristics of those flows, and consequences for both origin and destination places. Research in this theme extends from the implications of population (re)distribution and local or regional population loss, through to identifying functional areas and exploring spatial exclusion from smart city technologies.

  • Links between social and spatial mobility 
  • Demographic change and internal migration 
  • Defining labour market areas
  • Depopulation and shrinking cities
  • Smart cities and spatial inequality 


People and Place

David Bradley
Principal Research Associate

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7546

Professor Anthony Champion
Emeritus Professor of Population Geography

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6437

Emeritus Professor Mike Coombes
Senior Research Investigator

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 0102

Professor Rachel Franklin
Professor of Geographical Analysis

Telephone: 0191 208 8004

Dr Sanne Velthuis
Research Associate


Dr Eman Zied
Research Associate



  • Champion T and Falkingham J, eds. (In Press) Population Change in the United Kingdom Rowman & Littlefield International: London

  • Champion T and Shuttleworth I (2016) Are people changing address less? An analysis of migration within England and Wales, 1971-2011, by distance of move Population Space and Place (ePub ahead of Print)

  • Champion T and Shuttleworth I (2016) Is longer-distance migration slowing? An analysis of the annual record for England and Wales since the 1970s Population Space and Place (ePub ahead of Print)

  • Stuetzer M, Obschonka M, Audretsch D, Wyrwich M, Rentfrow P, Coombes M, Shaw-Taylor L and Satchell M (2016) Industry structure, entrepreneurship, and culture: an empirical analysis using historical coalfields European Economic Review 86: 52-72

  • Melo P, Copus A and Coombes M (2016) Modelling small area at-risk-of-poverty rates for the UK using the World Bank methodology and the EU-SILC Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy 9: 97-117

  • Brown D, Champion T, Coombes M and Wymer C (2015) “The migration-commuting nexus in rural England: a longitudinal analysis Journal of Rural Studies 41: 118-128

  • Gordon I, Champion T and Coombes M (2015) Urban escalators and inter-regional elevators: the difference that location, mobility and sectoral specialisation make to occupational progression Environment & Planning A  47: 588-606

  • Goddard J, Coombes M, Kempton L and Vallance P (2014) Universities as anchor institutions in cities in a turbulent funding environment: vulnerable institutions and vulnerable places in England Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 7: 307-325

  • Champion T, Coombes M and Gordon I (2014) How far do England’s second-order cities emulate London as human-capital ‘escalators’? Population, Space and Place 20: 421-433

  • Coombes M (2014) From city region concept to boundaries for governance: the English case Urban Studies 51: 2426-2443

  • Champion T and Coombes M (2014) “Is Pennine England becoming more polycentric or more centripetal? An analysis of commuting flows in a transforming industrial region, 1981-2001” pp73-80 in D O’Donoghue (ed) Urban transformations: centres, peripheries and systems Ashgate, Farnham

Projects & Reports

CURDS has a long-standing interest in the historical evolution of the economic landscape.

  • Pike A, MacKinnon D, Coombes M, Champion T, Bradley D, Cumbers A, Robson L and Wymer C (2016) Unequal Growth: Tackling City Decline Joseph Rowntree Foundation: York

  • Office for National Statistics and Coombes M (2016) Travel-to-Work Area analysis in Great Britain: 2016 Office for National Statistics, London

  • Coombes M and Wymer C (2015) Updating the definition of Primary Urban Areas (CURDS RR2015/06) Newcastle University: Newcastle upon Tyne

  • Champion T 2014  People in Cities: The Numbers. Foresight Future of Cities Working Paper 3. London: Government Office for Science. ?

  • Copus A, and Coombes M (2014) “Small area estimation of at risk of poverty rates” pp.132-138 in F Holstein, S Zillmer and K Böhme (eds.) Science in support of European Territorial Development and Cohesion ESPON, Luxembourg

  • Bradley D (2013) My Newcastle: assessing the importance and value of buildings and spaces to primary aged pupils (CURDS RR2013/02) Newcastle University: Newcastle upon Tyne


The Geography of Housing Markets Areas in England

CURDS hosts this web page presenting the results from the The Geography of Housing Market Areas in England research project funded by the National Housing and Planning Advisory Unit (NHPAU).

The project was undertaken by a multi-university research team led by Prof Colin Jones (Heriot-Watt University). Mike Coombes led the CURDS research, with the other major component of the project led by Prof Cecilia Wong (Manchester University).

Some of the project outputs that can be accessed from hot-links below include maps which use Ordnance Survey material as background. This material was held by the NHPAU as part of the pan-government agreement and is reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2009. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100018986.

The research has produced the first theoretically-based and rigorously-defined housing market area (HMA) boundaries for England. It was particularly innovative in drawing on three different strands of evidence: commuting, migration and housing price patterns. It has also explored the potential advantages and feasibility of defining multiple ‘tiers’ of HMAs. The findings of the research are summarised in the overview research Report (PDF: 1.3MB).

The project involved three principal Stages and each of these produced at least one detailed report.
Stage 1 (PDF: 3.75MB) led by Heriot-Watt and Manchester reviewed principles behind definitions of HMAs and examined how these principles had been implemented in each region of the country, with a detailed examination of different approaches applied to the North West
Stage 2 (PDF: 2.0MB) led by CURDS involved new methodological developments to define HMAs
•Stage 3 included a Manchester-led review (PDF: 9.2MB) of spatial planning issues and implications, as well as analyses (PDF: 159KB) of affordability by Heriot-Watt.

The outcome of the research centres on HMA definitions with a tiered structure where appropriate (PDF: 644KB) (eg. London). The objective of this structure was to provide HMA boundaries that would be useful for the planning of housing:
•a set of Strategic HMAs covers the whole country, providing appropriate areas for the modelling and analysis of affordability in particular,
•in more urbanised regions especially Strategic HMAs are split into a ‘lower tier’ of Local HMAs for detailed monitoring of the balance of housing supply and demand (nb. elsewhere the Strategic HMAs are undivided).

The research has also provided, as an alternative, a single-tier set of HMAs (PDF: 1.0MB).

These sets of HMAs are termed ‘gold standard’ because their boundaries are defined to the maximum possible level of detail. They group the c.9000 wards used for migration and commuting datasets which were made available from the 2001 Census: thanks are due to the Office for National Statistics for allowing temporary access to unpublished data on migration by Moving Group Reference Persons aged 25 or more. © Census output is Crown copyright and is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

To produce the ‘gold standard’ boundaries there were some slight changes to the groupings of wards produced by the computerised analyses of the Census datasets: these minor adjustments were needed to prevent any boundary non-contiguity (in which the HMA would include a ward that was separated from the rest of the HMA by intervening areas belonging to one or more different HMAs). Along with the ’gold standard’ HMA definitions there are ‘silver standard’ versions which represent the best possible match to the original definitions that are obtainable by grouping whole local authorities (LAs). These definitions use LA areas as at 2003 so as to maximise the data available for them. There is a  (PDF: 278KB) plus a ‘silver standard’ single tier set of HMAs (PDF: 219KB).

It should be stressed that the research was committed to producing appropriate HMA boundaries for England and this has two implications for the results in Wales and Scotland. The first is that the HMAs can straddle national borders where – as with Berwick for example – the border is spanned by the patterns of movement that characterise HMAs. The second is that the research has not had the same level of commitment to producing HMA boundaries that are necessarily appropriate for policy or other use in the other countries of Britain. For example, ‘silver standard’ definitions of Strategic HMAs were only produced for England.

In addition to the reports and maps available by following the links above, there are various datasets and more technical outputs which can be obtained by following the links below.

Map with code numbers for: Strategic HMAs (PDF: 182KB) local HMAs (PDF: 87KB) single-tier set of HMAs (PDF: 90KB)
Map with names for: Strategic HMAs (PDF: 260KB) Local HMAs (PDF: 4.8MB) single-tier set of HMAs (PDF: 102KB)
HMA code numbers and names for: Strategic HMAs (Excel: 27KB) Local HMAs (Excel : 59KB) single-tier set of HMAs (Excel: 26KB)
Ward allocations to: Strategic HMAs (Excel: 600KB) Local HMAs (Excel: 603KB) single-tier set of HMAs (Excel: 600KB)
Migration statistics for: Strategic HMAs (Excel: 25KB) Local HMAs (Excel: 45KB) single-tier set of HMAs (Excel: 26KB)
Commuting statistics for: Strategic HMAs (Excel: 24KB) Local HMAs (Excel: 46KB) single-tier set of HMAs (Excel: 26KB)
LA allocations (‘silver standard’) to: Strategic HMAs (Excel: 48KB)   single-tier set of HMAs (Excel: 51KB)