Urbanisation: Could the Pandemic Disrupt a Global Megatrend?

reverse urbanisation
As city centres become deserted and city dwellers head to the countryside, we look at the possibility that Covid-19 could reverse the global urbanisation megatrend in the long term.

The coronavirus pandemic has turned the advantages of city-life into disadvantages almost overnight. The connections to global networks, large business organisations, ease of travel, cosmopolitan communities now appear as weaknesses that have put city-dwellers at the greatest risk from the virus.

While travel companies revealed the mass cancellation of holiday plans, The Times reported that estate agents in rural areas were receiving calls from wealthy Londoners prepared to offer tens of thousands of pounds to rent properties in the country. As schools closed, people urgently sought to take their children out of the capital and find houses with outside space.

And the UK has not been alone in this response to the pandemic. As lockdown threatened, across Europe and the Netherlands city-dwellers headed out to the rural areas, causing local communities to react angrily amid concerns about the spread of the virus by those travelling from cities.

Just as across the world borders were being close, some local authorities have done the same in the hope of halting the spread of the virus from urban areas into rural communities.

According to UN figures the percentage of the UK’s population currently residing in urban areas is at 83.9%, and has been predicted to rise to 88.2% by 2040, and 90.2% by 2050.

But as history has proven from the Black Death to Cholera to Ebola, pandemics have the power to restructure our cities. And Covid-19 will almost certainly have the same power, although how it plays out remains to be seen.

History has proven from the Black Death to Cholera to Ebola that pandemics have the power to restructure our cities. And Covid-19 will almost certainly have the same power. #urbanisation #globalmegatrends Click To Tweet

However, with people confined to their homes and the way we move through, work in and think about our cities radically altering, this is causing many to wonder what city life might look like on the other side.

After all, if businesses restructure to enable their staff to work from home, and video conferencing technology replaces the need to travel to meetings, if shopping local replaces the mega-malls and staycations replace international holidays, then much of the pressure to live in urban areas is removed.

So why does this matter?

A gradual exodus from towns and cities to more rural areas means that priorities for our homes will have to change. For a start, space will be less of an issue, but the likelihood is that we will also want our homes to enable us to be more self sufficient should another pandemic come to pass. This could mean additional kitchen space to store reserves of food, the flexibility to accommodate home offices and home schooling, along with bathrooms incorporating health-monitoring tech, and fitness areas for gym equipment.

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