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The Covid ‘race for space’ looks to be over with London‘s population almost certainly above its pre-pandemic peak of 10.1million, according to a report.

Analysis by the Centre for Cities has highlighted the shift in the trend for the capital, after an exodus when the country was beset by lockdowns and people were often working from home.

It found that numbers fell by 75,000 between mid-2019 and mid-2021, the equivalent the population of Harrogate.

However, around 66,000 of that had been recouped by mid-2022. That was partly due to net migration to the rest of the UK returning to previous levels.

The bulk was attributed to immigration from abroad, which has been reaching new records.  

The report said the population of London is ‘now almost certainly higher than it has ever been’, although official figures have not been updated yet. 

The Covid ‘race for space’ looks to be over with London ‘s population almost certainly above its pre-pandemic peak of 10.1million, according to a report

The report said the population of London is 'now almost certainly higher than it has ever been', although official figures have not been updated beyond mid-2022

The report said the population of London is ‘now almost certainly higher than it has ever been’, although official figures have not been updated beyond mid-2022 

The Centre for Cities analysis pointed out that net migration to London from overseas remained positive throughout the pandemic. It was 38,170 in 2019-20 and 73,660 in 2021-22.

The report suggested that the increase in outflows from the capital was ‘relatively small’ and an ‘amplification of existing trends’. 

‘Given there was no large increase in the availability of houses elsewhere in the country this should be no great surprise,’ it said.

‘London has for many years lost population to the rest of England and Wales, with the difference between births and deaths and international migration driving the growth of the Capital’s population.’

The report said the ‘appeal of quitting London diminished as it reopened, pandemic restrictions eased, and professionals were required to spend at least part of the week in the office’. 

‘The question now is whether in the coming years population growth will ‘overshoot’ to compensate for the increased outflows during the pandemic,’ the report said.

Official projections published in January suggested that net migration will add 6.1million to UK numbers over the next 12 years – nearly all the growth from the most recent estimate of 67million in mid-2021.

The rate of expansion has been upgraded after net inflows hit a new record of 745,000 in 2022, with the population now anticipated to hit 70million by mid-2026.

London saw its population fall amid the pandemic, but has now returned to growth

The South East is the most popular destination for people moving out of the capital, according to the Centre for Cities research

The South East is the most popular destination for people moving out of the capital, according to the Centre for Cities research 

The ONS came with the caveat that they are based on current trends rather than being predictions, and could come down if the government succeeds in curbing net migration.

The estimates assembled by an expert panel assume long-term net international migration of 315,000 a year from mid-2028 onwards.

Both David Cameron and Theresa May were targeting an annual level below 100,000.

The Conservative manifesto in 2019 pledged ‘numbers will come down’. At that point the level was around 240,000.

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