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Strategic Evidence Base : Place

Covering infrastructure, culture and geography types in the North East


This page summaries data on the geography of the North East. The North East is unique amongst the core cities in having a considerable proportion of its GVA in Urban, Rural and Coastal areas. Each of these areas have their own challenges and unique dynamics.

Housing is relatively affordable in the North East yet home ownership is lower than average. Public transport connections are generally good, though there are areas of relative inaccessibility in more rural areas.

Digital connectivity in the region is also relatively strong. Foundational digital skills in the region are slightly lower than average. 

The region has made significant progress in decarbonising since 2005. 



of properties are used for social renting in the North East


average monthly rent as a proportion of a single person's salary


 net additional properties in 2022-23

The homeownership rate is below the national average and is lowest of all regions outside of London​

Housing continues to be unaffordable for many residents, even though the ‘official’ measure of median house prices to median earnings is lower than in most other parts of the UK​

Variance in rent prices in the North East is smaller than elsewhere, and when considered alongside lower salaries, rent is more difficult for those at the lower income intervals looking for cheaper properties ​

House prices have increased much less than nationally since 2006.  Lower house prices make them more affordable on the official measure, but increases the ‘viability gap’ on housing schemes​

On the index of multiple deprivation, the North East scores better than average on access to housing and quality of living environment but poor health and an ageing population will present new consumer demands.

Climate and environment 


of waste is recycled in the North East


 of the North East is forest and woodland


Of England's nature reserves are in the North East

Carbon dioxide emissions from the North East area have more than halved since 2005. North East emissions per head are lower than the England average

The proportion of homes in the North East rated C+ in energy efficiency is similar to national average, as is estimated household emissions

The North East has relatively high levels of electric vehicle charging per head, and the third highest per person by region in England exc. London

While lower overall, air pollution (Particulate Matter) in the North East’s urban areas is similar to national averages for comparable areas.



expenditure per person on transport in North East as percentage of London 


premature deaths could be avoided by 2035 from a 45% increase in active travel


Metro passenger journeys in 2023

On average residents in the North East have relatively good access to employment centres via public transport compared to nationally​, but connections to employment centres are weaker in Northumberland and County Durham – especially connections to major employment centres with over 5000 employments​

Transport North East report that almost a third of residents are at risk of Transport Related Social Exclusion​

Active travel rates in the North East are close to the national average with traffic, safety and infrastructure popular barriers to higher use. Greater active travel would have a range of economic, health and environmental benefits for the North East​

Car is the most frequently used form of transport within the region for both personal travel and commuting. Despite this, road user casualties have almost halved since 2014-16.



increase in NECA job vacancies requiring IT skills since 2015


Median salary of IT professionals in the ​North East region


of indoor spaces with 4G coverage

The North East region is well positioned for growth in digital sector:​

  • Above national average number of businesses in specialist emerging sub-sectors with future growth potential such as gaming, immersive tech, FinTech, MedTech, robotics and software as a service.​
  • Strong R&D specialisms in cyber-security, robotics and data ethics​
  • Public sector-led innovation as evidenced by two well-regarded Smart Cities and other successful programmes particularly around public health.​
  • 97% of premises in the North East region are accessing superfast broadband and 72% of sites have access to Gigabit broadband, in line with the UK average.​
  • Also a higher proportion of indoor spaces with 4G coverage and outdoor premises with 5G coverage in North East CA compared to the UK. ​

However, there are underlying inequalities in infrastructure and skills:​

  • 5% of the North East region population are still offline.​
  • High-speed broadband continues to be a challenge in rural areas across the North East, with provision well below the average of urban areas.​
  • Only 5.5% of North East region’s Gross Fixed Capital expenditure is on IT, below the national average excluding London.​
  • Essential digital life skills have increased in the North East region, but still lag behind national averages.

Culture, creative and tourism

£1.4 billion

domestic visitor spend in the North East region


increase in culture and creative businesses since 2015

£3.8 million

overnight visits to the North East region

Culutre and creative industires have seen strong growth in businesses in the North East since 2015 increasing by 10%.

Employment in North East CA’s Cultural and Creative sector declined by 11% between 2015 and 2019. The pandemic’s impact has also been significant, causing further reduction in employment.

However, employment in the sector is now above pre-pandemic levels (as in 2022). Underlying growth potential in the culture and creative sector is supported by emerging opportunities, including through the North East Screen Industry.

There are significant tourism growth opportunities, with the North East region making up a relatively small share of the UK’s visitor economy:​

  • Only 1.6% (c.488k) of all international visitors to the UK​
  • However, the North East region has one of the highest average spending per international visitor in the UK (£638 per person)​
  • Relatively low number of visitors in the region for business purposes (19%) – however proportionally more compared to UK (16%)​

In 2022, visitor attractions in the North East garnered over 5 million domestic visits. This was an increase by over 1million from 2021, but below pre-pandemic levels.​

The region’s High Streets decline at a slower rate post-pandemic and the North East saw the second lowest number of closures and net losses since 2017.​

Significant capital investment in new visitor related activities planned for next 10 years (>£608m), including at Gateshead Quays.


£6.8 billion

GVA from the North East’s rural areas in 2020:


Estimated employees in the North East’s rural areas


of North East rural areas are in the top 20% most deprived LSOAs nationally

Over the period 2001-2020 levels of productivity in rural areas declined (from 83% to 77% of the whole economy)​.

The North East rural economy traditionally performs at least as well as the UK rural average, if not better. Rural businesses are more likely to engage in innovation but less likely to export.​

The COVID-pandemic has caused some significant challenges for rural areas and employment growth lags​.

An ageing workforce and changing patterns of migration is expected to cause labour challenges for rural businesses, and especially those relying on seasonal workers. (Nationally, 3% of farm holders were under 35yrs old)​.

While not limited to agriculture, the North East Region’s rural agricultural businesses contribute 7% of all UK oat production and 13% of all sheep. Our farms typically out-perform national average by income too​.

Rural areas are typically less deprived than urban areas in the North East MCA area, but still suffer from inequalities.​



GVA from the North East's coastal economy


Employment in coastal areas in 2022


Lower per month net income BHC in coastal areas

Coastal communities typically have lower incomes and an over-representation of disadvantaged communities.​

There are no significant differences in housing quality between coastal and inland areas in the North East, and in the case of EPC rating, coastal areas often perform better.​

Coastal economies are less productive than in inland areas; with GVA per worker at the NE coast £10,000 less than inland, and the accumulative GVA growth at the coast 25% lower since 2008.​

Coastal businesses are more likely to engage in innovation than both rural and inland areas. Coastal firms face challenges with lack of business premises, skills availability, financial resources, broadband and affordable housing compared to inland areas, but also see high potential from tourism, data economy.



National growth rate in urban employment compared to the North East


More people living in rural areas to match growth in urban areas since 2011


of businesses in the North East are in urban areas

Mirroring national patterns, urban areas in the North are on average more deprived than rural ones. 35% of urban areas in the NE are in the top two deciles for deprivation across the country​.

Urban areas have experienced faster population growth than rural areas​ and Urban areas are home to the North East’s largest businesses.

Further data

North East strategic evidence base

Read about the overall context behind our strategic evidence base


Read about the core economic indicators in the North East, including GDP, businesses and investment


Read about what the evidence says on the population of the North East, including labour market data and health data.