Lancaster district

This summary offers a snapshot of some of the most important economic, social and environmental factors in Lancaster district with links through to the source information. The information has been allocated to one of the seven themes: Map of Lancaster City district

  1. Children and Young People
  2. People and Communities
  3. Economic Development
  4. Community Safety
  5. Environment and Transport
  6. Health and Wellbeing
  7. Older People 


Lancaster City Council is the second largest Lancashire authority in geographic terms covering 567 square kilometres, having 27 wards for which Census 2021 profiles are available. These appear as starter pages showing just the population, but around 30 Census topics can be added. The number of people per km² is the second lowest in Lancashire, well below the county and national averages. From an historic point of view there have been dramatic changes and the pace of future change is liable to increase.   

  1. Children and Young People

For young children and parents the county council's Children and Family Wellbeing Service has a search facility for local centres. The six in the district are Carnforth, Lune Park, Poulton and Westgate Children and Family Wellbeing Services, plus the Morecambe Central and White Cross Neighbourhood Centres. 

Key stage 4 covers the two years of school education that incorporates GCSEs in maintained schools. A new secondary school GCSE accountability system was implemented in 2016, in which 'Attainment 8' measures achievement in maths and English plus other subjects with less weighting. In 2021/22 the average score was 48.7 in Lancaster district. This was above the average of 47.6 for the Lancashire County Council area. The Department for Education achievement and attainment tables have more information on achievement at other levels.  

There are 64 schools in Lancaster, of these 50 are primary and 8 secondary. A full list of schools in Lancashire is available. Ofsted inspection reports and the GOV.UK web pages on schools performance for Morecambe and Lunesdale and Lancaster and Fleetwood parliamentary constituencies are useful sources of local information.

Lancaster and Morecambe College has its main site on Morecambe Road and has been providing further education and training for over 50 years.

Lancaster University is highly regarded in a number of academic fields and has seen significant expansion over the past few years. The complete university guide has for a number of years given Lancaster an impressive overall ranking in comparison to all other universities in the country. The town also has a major campus that is part of the University of Cumbria. The Education sector is therefore an important local source of employment, and results from the Higher Education Skills Agency point to growth in academic staff numbers at Lancaster University over recent financial years. 

A popular education facility in the authority that is close to Carnforth is Borwick Hall, a Lancashire outdoor education centre.

The county council's Young People's Service website has an activity and organisations search facility that lists a wide range of options for young people in each of the 12 districts within the county council area.

Business Intelligence and Public Health analysts at Lancashire County Council have produced Child health profiles for districts in Lancashire, including both district and ward elements for Lancaster, and bringing together key indicators from Fingertips, the public health data collection from the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities (OHID).

  1. People and Communities

The 2022 mid-year population estimate total for the authority was 144,446. One of the first Census outputs made available is an interactive tool that compares the 2021 results with 2011 for local authorities. The LG Inform service has also provided an interactive tool for analysing population change. Population growth in the district has over the years been under-pinned by strong net-migration results. 

Local authority live births and deaths graphs are available that track changes in births and deaths since the 1980s for each authority in Lancashire. The graph for Lancaster shows that the differential between the numbers of live births and deaths has narrowed over the years, with births predominating between 2009 and 2014. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic most districts, including Lancaster, had more deaths than births in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The number of deaths in each month of 2021 to 2023 can be seen in the monthly mortality graph slide on the Lancashire Insight Covid-19 intelligence web page.

 Graph of live births, deaths and difference between the two in Lancaster from 1981 onwards. In 2022 there were 1,269 live births and 1,648 deaths

The authority has a history of relatively low total fertility rates.

The fact that the authority has a major university, and that it has localities that are popular retirement destinations is clearly reflected in the age profile of the residents. There are above average proportions of people in the 15-24 and 65+ age-groups. There has been increasing diversity in the ethnic mix during the last decade, mainly in the "other white" and "other" groups, likely to be as a result of migration from Eastern Europe and an increasingly international mix of students.

It is estimated that between 2018 and 2043 the population of Lancaster will increase by 9.2%, which is above the 7.2% predicted for the Lancashire-14 area. The projected number of households in the authority is estimated to grow by 13.2% between 2018 and 2043, which is below the Lancashire-12 but above the  Lancashire-14 average.

The 2011 census results for people with second addresses show out of the 14 Lancashire authorities, Lancaster had the largest numbers of both usual residents elsewhere with a second address in the area (4,810) and usual residents in the area with a second address elsewhere (9,961). The much larger latter category includes university students residing in the authority.  

Lancaster has around 64,600 dwellings, 90% are owner occupied or private rented, but the local authority maintains a notable proportion of the dwelling stock. The median house price to earnings ratio is relatively modest in the authority. Lancaster district has relatively high proportions of its housing stock in the two lowest council tax bands in comparison to the national averages. The net additional dwellings results show a strong outturn (300 or more) in the authority for all financial years since 2014/15, with a peak of 700 in 2019/20.

A total of 15.1% of households were in fuel poverty in 2020 in Lancaster making it the 5th highest in the Lancashire-14 area and the 67th highest in England. This was also somewhat higher than the England average of 13.2% and higher than in 2019 . The main factors that determine this are the energy efficiency status of the property, the cost of energy, and household income.

The 2019 Indices of Deprivation reveals that Lancaster was the 112th most deprived area out of 317 districts and unitary authorities in England by the rank of average rank measure, but as high as 33rd most deprived by the alternative rank of local concentration measure.

ONS has produced a set of residential-based area classifications using analysis of the 2011 Census. These are for very small statistical areas, but we have identified the most common groups for the electoral wards. Residents in eight of Lancaster's wards mostly fit into the 'Urban Professionals and Families' group, in seven wards the 'Semi-Detached Suburbia' group and those in another five wards the 'Rural Tenants' group.

  1. Economic Development

Gross value added is an indicator of economic activity within an area, and figures are now available for the north Lancashire area that includes both Lancaster and Wyre districts. In 2017, the two districts generated a gross value added figure that was just 67.7% of the UK average. This was also well below the 80.3% average for the Lancashire-14 area. In contrast,  the gross disposable household results for 2016, revealed that the Lancaster and Wyre area had a per head of population figures that was 84.2% of the UK average. This was 3rd highest out of the six sub-localities within the Lancashire-14 area. Together, Lancaster and Wyre districts do not form a significant locality of wealth generation through industrial and commercial activity, but the area exists within a much wider economic context. Many residents have average income levels generated from earnings, investments and welfare benefits (including pensions) that compare favourably with other localities in Lancashire.    

Employee numbers in Lancaster grew at a rate just above the county and national average in the decade to 2008. Between 2009 and 2016, the employment number in the authority rose from 55 thousand to reach a high of 61 thousand, but fell back to 55 thousand in 2018. 

In Lancaster as in most places, the manufacturing sector has shed jobs over the years whilst the service sector has grown to become a far greater source of employee jobs. Lancaster has a lower rate of employee jobs in the manufacturing sector than is the norm in the county and nationally and conversely a higher rate of employment in the service sector. With two universities in the city employment in the education sector is high.

Our extensive employment records allow us to monitor the changes to employee numbers from 1929 onwards. We have published separate graphs for each of the 14 Lancashire local authorities that reveal changes in total employee numbers and the shift from manufacturing to service sector employment. Methodological changes, and assumptions for missing years, reduce the accuracy of the graphs, but they do give a useful broad indication of changes over time.  The Lancaster graph reveals the broad long-term pattern of increasing employment levels in the authority over the long-term. 

Graph of employee jobs in Lancaster from 1929 onwards showing relative share between manufacturing, services and other industries

Average earnings results for the authority in 2019 reveal a sizeable difference between the figures by place of residence and place of work, indicating that Lancaster benefits from outward commuter flows, some of which are outside the Lancashire border.  

The survey of personal incomes by HM Revenue and customs broadly includes all individuals whose income is higher than the prevailing personal tax allowance and who are therefore liable to tax. The median results are the middle value that best reflects typical income, and they show a modest result for Lancaster that is just below the Lancashire-12 average. 

In 2023, there were 4,680 active enterprises in Lancaster district. 88% of these had less than 10 employees. There were 470 enterprises in the small (10-49 employee) category and around ten in the large (over 250 employees) group. 

The most recent companies in Lancaster to win a Queen's Award for Enterprise are Samuelson Wylie Associates, who provide content generation, marketing and event services (2022), Standfast and Barracks, a specialist textile firm (2020) and Rinicom Ltd (2018).

Heysham Port, the M6 motorway and the extensive White Lund Industrial Estate are important factors that shape the local business landscape. Higher education institutions, especially the university, are also very important sources of employment.  

The Lancaster Business Improvement District covers the town centre and aims to improve the commercial vibrancy of the core central area. There is a particular emphasis on the strong events and cultural offer in the core town centre.

The town centre of Morecambe is destined to benefit from the Future High Streets Fund, launched in 2018, while Lancaster City Centre could also benefit indirectly from a mix of funding sources which also includes the Future High Streets Fund, but channelled through the High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme.

The UK government properties database is a searchable list of all UK government property holdings and land assets. The web page for the North West region lists land and properties by towns including those in Lancaster district.

At Heysham, the two AGR plants owned by EDF Energy represent one of the largest concentrations of power generation in the UK. Heysham 1 is capable of supplying 1.5 million homes and is expected to be in production until 2024, whilst Heysham 2 has a slightly larger output capacity and has an estimated decommissioning date of 2030.

Assisted areas are those places where regional aid can be offered to undertakings, typically businesses, under European Union state aid rules. From 2014 to 2020 Lancaster had six wards with assisted area status. Following the departure of the UK from the European Union, these rules no longer apply, but a Subsidy control bill is currently going through Parliament.

Lancaster is fortunate in having five museums, two managed by the Lancashire Museums Service and three by Lancaster City Council. Together, they play an important role in attracting visitors to the city, and their visitor numbers provide an indication of the vitality of the local visitor economy. The visitor economy remains an important local employer and the authority is home to a variety of attractions, but the Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted the sector.

Strong economic links with areas to the north of Lancaster district are reflected in commuting patterns. The 2011 census figures reveal that more people in Lancaster district (3,046) commuted to the South Lakeland district council area for work than any other local district or unitary authority. The same was true for inward commuting, with more coming from South Lakeland (2,007) than anywhere else. South Lakeland contains the settlements of Arnside, Ambleside, Windermere, Kendal, Ulverston and Kirkby Lonsdale. The census confirmed that a large percentage of people in employment aged 16 or over (77%) lived and worked within the authority.  

There is a reasonably high number of employment and support allowance claimants. The housing benefit article identifies the number of recipients and the effects of the spare room subsidy withdrawal in the authority. In comparison to the national average, there is a low percentage of the working age population that is reliant on welfare benefits.

  1. Community Safety

The recorded crime article reveals that Lancaster has a crime rate that is just below the average for the Lancashire-14 area. See the LG Inform Quarterly Report on Crime and Disorder by Local Authority.

For more details on community safety in your neighbourhood, please enter your postcode or ward into the window in the Local area community safety statistics web page.

Alcohol is known to contribute to offending behaviour, particularly violence, anti-social behaviour and criminal damage. Residents in the authority are significantly worse for number of hospital stays due to alcohol than the national average and for binge drinking, according to the LAPE (Local Alcohol Profiles for England).

In 2021, there were 78 people killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions in Lancaster. 

Lancaster Farms is the sole dedicated Young Offender Institution for the North West. The former Lancaster Castle prison occupied a large section of the historic building in central Lancaster. The prison closed at the end of March 2011, and the site has the potential to be redeveloped as a major visitor destination.

  1. Environment and Transport

Passenger services from Heysham Port to the Isle of Man are operated by the Steam Packet Company, whilst Seatruck Ferries specialises in the carriage of freight, and operates services from Heysham to both Dublin and Warren Point in Northern Ireland. The movement of larger vessels in the Morecambe Bay area can be monitored in real time. Figures are available for freight traffic through Heysham Port and Glasson Dock, plus passenger movements at Heysham.

Transport has a key role to play in realising the economic potential of an area by unlocking key locations, such as the existing and new locations referred to in the economy section.  Using sustainable transport modes can significantly improve employment opportunities and life chances. In urban areas the reliance on the car presents problems of traffic congestion and reduced air quality.

The M6 motorway runs through the authority, north to Cumbria and south to central Lancashire while another major route, the A6, runs parallel to it. The A65 in the east of the area in places follows the border with North Yorkshire. Despite the presence of these busy communication routes, the rural nature of much of the authority and its proximity to the coast means that very good air quality results are recorded across large parts of the district.  

The Heysham to M6 link, or Bay Gateway, was officially opened on March 2nd 2017.

The Department for Transport website has an interactive map that lists the traffic flows at hundreds of sites across all of the Lancashire County Council area.

Lancaster is the third most important railway station in the county in terms of passenger usage. The numbers also confirm the importance of Carnforth, Morecambe, Bare Lane and Silverdale stations.

The location of the main settlements in the authority means that a number of workers do have to commute long distances. The 2011 census indicated that 2,773 or 4.39% of Lancaster residents in work aged 16 and over commute more than 60 kilometres. This is the highest percentage in Lancashire, and is in excess of the regional and national averages. Manchester is probably the location for a number of these people. The authority was also one of two in the county with over 5% of workers commuting between 30 and 40 km. For a number of Lancashire authorities, between 15-20% of commuters travel between 10-20 km to work, but for Lancaster the percentage is less than 6%. It is an authority where people either have short or long commutes, but the location gives few opportunities in this middle category.   

Lancaster has a high proportion of residents who cycle.   

Maps are available that reveal the various rural-urban definitions across Lancashire down to the very small census output area level.  

The National Biodiversity Network Gateway acts as a “data warehouse” for biodiversity information, which can be quickly and easily accessed to understand the distribution of particular species in the UK. Much of the local data is supplied by the Lancashire Environment Record Network (LERN), which is hosted by Lancashire County Council. An interactive map on this site shows the extent of the Environmental Record Centre coverage, including the LERN area, and when adding a species using the 'Add to Map' control, records of their sightings are displayed.

Green belts have been an enduring element of national planning policy. They check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas; prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another; assist in safeguarding the countryside, preserve the character of historic towns and encourage the recycling of derelict and other urban land. Lancaster has a very low proportion of land designated as green belt and in 2020 200 hectares were removed from this classification south of the Bay Gateway Link Road and to the west of the West Coast Main Line.

Common land may be owned by one or more people, but it is land over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to graze livestock, collect firewood, or cut turf for fuel. There are 550,000 hectares of registered common land in England and Wales and the 14 Lancashire local authorities account for 8,427 hectares, or 1.5% of the national total. The database of registered common land in England lists all sites by local authority boundary. Lancaster is one of three Lancashire authorities that account for a significant proportion of the county's common land.    

Large sections of the rural land in the authority are covered by the two areas of outstanding natural beauty; Forest of Bowland and Arnside/Silverdale.  Between the two Lord's Lot Wood is managed by Forestry England.

The Environment Agency samples bathing water quality between May and September to assess performance. Morecambe North was classified as only 'sufficient' in 2022, but Morecambe South was 'good'. 

Lancashire County Council supports a various projects in district authorities via a range of grants and funding options.

Total carbon dioxide emissions in Lancaster are below the national average in terms of tonnes per person, but emissions from transport are particularly high. There are also much higher levels of particulate and sulphur dioxide emissions than most other authorities. In 2020 41.7% of the district's total of 1,267.7 tonnes of NOx were attributed to Road transport. The City Council was awarded a grant of £54,576 by DeFRA in 2023 to encourage the take up of electric vehicles by taxi operators. This follows a DeFRA award of nearly £200,000 in 2022 to dampen the popularity of solid fuel burners.

The rates of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting have in general been improving over the years as sharp increases in Landfill Tax have made the traditional form of Landfill disposal much more expensive. The household waste reuse, recycling and composting rate in Lancaster district was 38.5% in 2021/22. The same article also highlights the consistently high number of fly-tipping incidents recorded in the authority, having the third highest number in the Lancashire-14 area in 2021/22.

The legacy of former mine workings in the area was highlighted in 2015, when the  coal authority published development risk plans and specific risk plans that included a set for Lancaster district.

  1. Health and Wellbeing

Figures life expectancy at birth reveal that Lancaster had male and female averages which are somewhat lower than the national figures. The following graph reveals life expectancy changes in the authority by three-year time periods from 1991-93 onwards. 

Life expectancy at birth, Lancaster graph

The Lancaster Health Profile, published by Public Health England, reveals that health indicators for the area are very rarely better than the England average.

The 2015 health behaviours summary report (PDF 449 KB) and lifestyle survey findings (PDF 850 KB) for Lancaster provide further details on lifestyle behaviours such as smoking, drinking, substance use, physical activity, nutrition, excess weight and wellbeing.

In July 2022 Integrated Care Boards replaced the much smaller Clinical Commissioning Groups as clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for their local area, including the majority of the hospital and community NHS services. Together with their associated Integrated Care Partnerships, which includes representatives from the upper tier local authorities responsible for social care and public health, they form Integrated Care Systems (ICS). The single ICS covering the whole of the Lancashire-14 area is the Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS. That web page has a link to a glossary of the terms used and there is a further explanation on a Kings Fund web page

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary is the major local hospital for the area. There is also the Queen Victoria Hospital in Morecambe that has some out-patient services. Both are run by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust. 

BMI healthcare provide private sector health services at the Lancaster Hospital.

The Trauma and Injury Intelligence Group (TIIG) was established to develop an injury surveillance system covering the North West. The Lancashire results include reports for Lancashire Royal Infirmary.

The local government association has produced 'housing, health and wellbeing profiles' for each local authority across the country. The figures go down to the ward level, and the Lancaster profile has results from the census, the index of multiple deprivation and other data sources.

Public Health England has produced Cardiovascular disease profiles for each of the former clinical commissioning groups in England, in this case NHS Morecambe Bay CCG. There are separate reports for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

  1. Older People

It has been well documented over recent years that people are living longer and that the older age-groups will record some dramatic increases over future years, with associated financial implications and demand for health and social care services. By 2043, the population aged 65 or over in Lancaster is projected to be 39,950. 

State Pension caseload numbers also highlight the large elderly population. Pension Credit is for pensioners at the lower end of the income scale and the caseload in the authority is relatively high reflecting both the high number of older people in the district and deprivation concentrated in some areas.

Attendance Allowance provides financial help to people aged 65 or over who are physically or mentally disabled and the caseload in Lancaster district (around 4,150 in August 2023) is the second largest for any authority in Lancashire-12.  

Life expectancy as mentioned earlier is increasing but there is no guarantee that the extra years of life will necessarily equate to extra years of healthy life expectancy. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that "extra" years of life expectancy should necessarily lead to additional years with ill health or disability. More suitable community services to enable independent living and more effective practice of preventive lifestyles and medicine has the potential to lengthen disability-free life expectancy, particularly in the case of the prevention and treatment of non-fatal but disabling diseases.

The Lancashire Care Homes Association is an organisation that represents care providers across the broader Lancashire area. The website lists a large number of care and nursing homes, along with domiciliary care agencies in the area. The details are listed by major urban localities across the county. 

Last updated 8 May 2024