Suburban Amersham is the UK’s most integrated town

The Kings Arms Old Amersham
The Kings Arms in Old Amersham (pic: The Kings Arms)

Really? I didn’t realise it had much of a minorities population to integrate and it’s only up the road.

Whilst today’s headlines raged about Boston in Lincolnshire being the least integrated town in the UK, I was much more interested to read that Amersham was the most integrated town in the country, not least because it is hardly the first place that springs to mind when thinking of diverse communities.

So posh Amersham, one of the outer reaches of the London Underground’s Metropolitan line, in the heart of the Chilterns in leafy Buckinghamshire, the epitome of suburban life and the Conservative commuter belt where £1 million houses are not uncommon is the most integrated town in the UK. As much as I would love to be proud of my sister town’s recognition, I am somewhat sceptical.

However, you can’t argue with the figures. The conclusion was gleaned by the think tank Policy Exchange using data from the last census in 2011 and marked the launch of its Integration Index which compares 160 places in England and Wales.

The 160 places had to have a minimum population of 20,000 and a minimum non-White British minority population of 15 per cent. And Amersham met the criteria so perhaps I am being a bit disingenuous in adopting a rather incredulous attitude to its achieving its status at the top of the table.

Amersham wasn’t alone in what was perhaps a surprising finding of the index, other suburban, affluent towns also made the top ten. Amersham was followed by Esher, Rickmansworth and Sutton Coldfield where the largest minorities tend to be successful Indians or Europeans. The most integrated places tend not to have a single large minority group and ethnic minorities had a greater share of managerial, higher paid jobs.

The least integrated places tended to be in post industrial Yorkshire and Lancashire with large settlements of people from poorer Pakistani backgrounds or the East of England where there has been an influx of East Europeans.

Very helpfully, I found a breakdown of Amersham’s demographics, also based on the census information, although it relates just to the town itself with a population at the time just short of 5k, and not the surrounding area.

  • The average age of people in Amersham Town is 41, while the median age is 43
  • More than four fifths (83.2%) were born in England
  • Others included 2.1% Scotland; 1.5% Wales; 1.1% Ireland; with India; United States; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Australia; and the Philippines each accounting for less than 1% each
  • 95.1% of people speak English
  • Other languages spoken are Polish;  Tamil; all other Chinese; French; Tagalog/Filipino; Spanish; Gujarati; Romanian; German, again all accounting for less than 1% each
  • Almost two thirds (63.0%) were Christian; 23.6% no religion; 2.2% Hindu; 0.8% Muslim; 0.6% Jewish; 0.5% Sikh; 0.2% Buddhist; 0.1% atheist; 402 people did not state a religion; and 11 people identified themselves as a Jedi Knight (helpful if Darth Vader singles out the sleepy town in his bid to impose the Dark Side on the universe)
  • Top occupations are professional 26.0%; associate professional and technical 17.3%; managers, directors and senior officials 16.8%; corporate managers and directors 11.7%; administrative and secretarial 11.0%; business, media and public service professionals 9.8%; business and public service associate professionals 9.4%; caring, leisure and other service 8.0%; administrative 7.6%; skilled trades 7.5%

In Boston, the local online news resource reported a study two years ago, which showed its non-UK population to have risen by 467% since 2011 bringing its overall population to 64,600 from, an increase of 15.8 per cent. The town is home to a higher proportion of eastern European immigrants than anywhere else in England and Wales with 10.6% hailing from one of the ‘new’ EU countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia or Romania.

So what else can we take from the Amersham book which could lead to higher levels of integration? Perhaps it could be down to uniting in a common cause: the controversial HS2 rail link destined to cut through the heart of the Chilterns has rallied the townsfolk who are largely united in their opposition to the high-speed railway proposal from London Euston to Birmingham. Meanwhile parents and students may be focused on a common goal of academic success – the boy’s grammar school Dr Challoner’s proudly announced that 21 of its students have been offered places at Oxford and Cambridge universities. Amersham residents could also be more interested in keeping up their typically highly priced homes, currently the most expensive on Right Move is £2.4 million compared to just under £600k in Boston. Amersham’s cheapest home was a flat for £170k compared to a flat in Boston for just £47,500.

 

But perhaps I am doing Amersham an injustice and should give credit where credit’s due by simply saying: well done Amersham.

The most integrated places 
1. Amersham, Buckinghamshire
2. Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
3. Loughton, Essex
4. Potters Bar, Hertfordshire
5. Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire

The least integrated places
1. Boston, Lincolnshire
2. Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
3. Oldham
4. Spalding, Lincolnshire
5. Bradford, Yorkshire

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