London ‘culture shock’

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The north-south divide is growing at possibly its fastest since the Second World War, a Sheffield-based expert told a conference.

While London has bounced back strongly since the recession, there was little evidence of recovery in the north, said Prof Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield.

The chasm is exemplified by 14% of shops being empty in Yorkshire compared with 7% in Greater London.

Britain is in danger of “pulling itself apart ... Getting off the train in London from Sheffield is now something of a culture shock,” said Prof Dorling. “The downturn had exacerbated the divide and no-one is doing anything about it.”

He presented his latest research at the annual York Festival of Ideas.

“Since 2010 the divide has widened massively in lots of different ways and possibly at its fastest rate since the Second World War,” he said.

“There will always be divides and they are always narrowing or widening, but the difference here is, it’s not being talked about and no-one is coming up with any solutions.”

Attention is being focused on reviving the banking sector in London and problems in part of the eurozone.

The London economy has grown by more than 12% since the start of the recession five years ago, while it less than 4% in Yorkshire and 3% in the East Midlands.

Yet the issue has fallen off the political agenda.

Prof Dorling says:

• The north-south divide has widened in term of peoples’ economic prospects, possibly too in terms of health and educational life chances.

• The housing market has created a chasm with more and more poorer people being ejected from London and the wider south east.

• Closing the divide might require accepting that people in Europe need to live with a little less, but much more equitably.