This article sheds some light on what preferences that folk in central and northern North West England (i.e., in Lancashire and Cumbria) have in the places that they would like to visit on days out, or even move to, given the choice. It blows the lid off assumptions that “People in Lancashire and South Cumbria Look to Manchester/ Liverpool as their Regional Go-To Centres”. It is almost a cliché, considered an oracle of truth by those that govern us, public organisations like the BBC and the Arts Council- but the following findings blow such assumptions wide apart.
This is very relevant with regards to what folk in Lancashire and South Cumbria receive in terms of Regional and Local News on BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports. Because, if folk only travel south to the big cities out of necessity or if they live and work in the cities because that’s all they can afford, would live in Cumbria (and commute), or visit Cumbria much more at the soonest chance it means that the priorities for coverage and the geographic coverage provided is failing much of the population of North West England in quite fundamental ways.
Now for the findings: There was a survey by the publication Property Investor Today in August 2018 found that, on balance, more folk living in the United Kingdom would prefer to live in the country than in the city. The link to this Survey can be found here: https://www.propertyinvestortoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2018/8/brits-prefer-country-living-to-city-life-research-shows.
Folk living in the North West of England must, if anything, be even more of that view if a look at what the cheap end of the market for four- bedroom semi- detached houses is anything to go by. This is especially when one considers that the high population of the urban centres compared to rural areas (population of Greater Manchester over 2,800,000 in 2020 versus 500,000 in Cumbria in 2019) and the economic needs of people to be near places of work and near families (if they live in cities), which would tend to push up prices in cities. Prices of four- bed semi-detached houses in following locations in 2021 (a reflection of demand) are:
Manchester: Cheap range £150,000 to £200,000
Tameside (Gtr. Manchester): Cheap range £170,000 to £240,000
Preston: Cheap range £135,000 to £230,000
Blackpool: £120,000 to £220,000
Liverpool: Cheap range £80,000 to £120,000
Wirral: Cheap range £100,000 to £180,000
Morecambe: Cheap range £100,000 to £250,000
Windermere: Cheap range £240,000 to £400,000
Keswick: Cheap range £250,000 to £400,000
The findings of house-prices confirm that despite economic factors pulling folk towards the main conurbations of Manchester and Liverpool, prices are lowest in Liverpool and the Wirral (Merseyside) and over double that in Windermere and Keswick in the Lake District. Prices of the cheaper four- bedroom semi- detached homes in central Manchester and in Morecambe are equivalent, Preston is slightly more expensive than central Manchester (as is Tameside, just to the east of Manchester and not far from the Peak District).
If economic factors, closeness to amenities and being close to good friends and family members (more likely to live in big towns and cities) were the only influences on demand- and areas of high demand have high house prices- then Manchester and Liverpool would have the highest prices and Cumbria, furthest from major retail centres, sources of well- paid employment, etc. would have the lowest prices. But the relatively sparsely- populated Lake District compared to the M62 Corridor has some of the most expensive properties in the country compared to similar properties elsewhere.
There are major reasons as to why this should be so. There are major reasons that folk, particularly older folk, would wish to avoid city centres as places to visit, let alone live. These are:
- High crime- rates in cities. Moss Side in South Manchester and Toxteth in Liverpool have a reputation for violence and gangs. In parts of these cities, one risks one’s life by walking outside late at night during the weekend. Thefts and vandalism of personal property is also a risk in big cities- and it is now known that the Police do not investigate a lot of these crimes in the 2020’s, let alone bring the perpetrators to justice!
- Traffic congestion in cities.
- Large crowds.
- Urban grime and soulless tower blocks, although regeneration has improved the images of some city centres (like Manchester) a lot of urban areas have a reputation for grime.
- Atmospheric pollution- which can exacerbate health problems.
As well as strong negative influences discouraging folk from living in cities there are strong positive draws to living in rural areas, particularly the Lake District. These are:
- The lovely scenery. A “Room With A View” is a cliché in modern times, but people really do like (and appreciate) lovely scenery and the sounds of nature. Away from cities one can see stars in black, clear skies unhindered by light pollution.
- Friendly locals and neighbours who often go out of their way to make one feel welcome.
- Low crime rates, often upheld by strong local Neighbourhood Watch initiatives.
- Fresh air and open countryside around, providing the opportunities for exercise and recreation (whilst offering more lovely views).
- Less traffic and congestion on the roads (except at the height of the Tourist Season).
- A calmer, less hectic pace of life. Few crowds (except at the height of the Tourist Season).
However, the preferences of Lancastrians to look northwards to places they prefer does not stop at folk moving home. Most day-trippers to Cumbria come from other parts of North West England, particularly from Greater Manchester and Lancashire. The Lake district received 40.7 million day-trippers during 2017 (https://www.cumbriatourism.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Cumbria-Tourism-Research-Newsletter-June-2018.pdf). Most of these day- trippers came from other parts of North West England, as indeed was illustrated by the fact that a majority of those caught travelling illegally to the Lake District last Spring during the first Covid-19 Lockdown came from Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside or Cheshire (i.e., here https://www.lep.co.uk/news/transport/lancashire-motorists-fined-visiting-lake-district-can-we-now-visit-cumbria-again-2848809 and here https://www.lep.co.uk/news/transport/two-men-preston-are-fined-and-escorted-out-lake-district-police-2847918 and also here https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/family-drive-lake-district-lockdown-18063125).
On the other hand, Manchester received just 30.2 million tourist day- visits per year on average during 2016 to 2018. (https://www.cumbriatourism.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Cumbria-Tourism-Research-Newsletter-June-2018.pdf). Liverpool had 30,138,900 Tourist day-trippers in 2012 (https://www.liverpoollep.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/wpid-digest-of-tourism-statistics-12-2013.pdf). A significant fraction of folk visiting these cities come from the northern Midlands and North Wales, respectively, in other words not from North West England. Thus, the great urban centres of the North West of England are not as popular with folk living in other parts of North West England whom Officialdom deem to “Look to Manchester and Liverpool”.
These statistics are illuminating as this indicates that folk living in much of North West England would prefer to visit the Lake District on a fine day than go shopping in Manchester or Liverpool. And in these days of Amazon Prime, Ebay and Yodel Delivery Vans folk do not need to travel to the big cities in order to obtain the specialist items that they need anything like as much as they would have done in pre- Internet days. More folk can choose to work from home so they do not have to “Move to the City to get high-paid Work” as they might have done in the past- and surely as night follows day, the recent Covid 19 Pandemic and associated restrictions has accelerated a greater trend towards working from home. Unless some-one suffers life-threatening injuries (requiring a visit to a specialist trauma unit) or one wishes to travel abroad to a specific exotic location, there really is no requirement laid upon folk living outside the big cities in North West England to visit Manchester or Liverpool at all- and indeed many thousands of Lancastrians and Cumbrians choose not to.
This brings us back to the coverage on BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports, because the Regional news broadcasters are producing news-coverage that much of their target audience really don’t want to know about! Not only that, but for many viewers of North West Regional Television who live outside the two big metropolitan centres, the presenters and broadcasters often don’t seem to speak their language about a range of matters. ITV1 Granada Reports has a large proportion of coverage devoted to issues like Gay Pride festivals, Black Lives Matter, issues facing Ethnic Minority groups (far more than the proportion of such people living in the North West) and extensive Sports coverage (which often takes up a good third of the so- called News output). Of course, some of these issues will be relevant to populations in the middle of Manchester and Salford, where the universities have a lot of overseas students, but in the rural Ribble Valley in Lancashire or near the Duddon Estuary in south-west Cumbria or even on the residential estates of Blackpool such “Woke” concerns are far from the minds of the (mainly White) Lancastrians and Cumbrians that live in such places. They are more worried about “How much of May is left at the end of the money?” or “How am I going to Make ends Meet after my Man has Walked Out?” or, in the country “There’s going to be no blackcurrants this year after those wretched late Spring frosts! My sales will suffer.”, whether ethnic minorities get stopped more by the Police will not be their over-riding concern.
The fact that the news- content (as well as the main geographical coverage) is far- removed from the concerns of folk living anywhere north of Wigan means that it would be quite sensible to advise a sheep- farmer living on a hillside above, say, Rawtenstall in Rossendale, Lancashire (and just 20 miles north of Manchester City Centre by road) to change Regional Television channels: This could be done by getting Sky TV, enlisting a Sky technician to put in a Windermere (Cumbria) postcode into the television, then the farmer and his family living near Rawtenstall can pick up ITV1 Border and watch Lookaround, rather than get ITV1 Granada Reports. The farmer might not get any news about Lancashire- he would probably get some from BBC North West Tonight following- but a) The farmer would get news about Cumbria, thus providing a proper north- south sweep of coverage of North West England in the round and, more importantly b) The farmer would get news about issues and concerns that affect that farmer and his family- like late spring frosts, poor lamb sales, foot and mouth disease, winter snow-storms burying sheep or rural transport. The hill- farmer is unlikely to get much of that off ITV1 Granada Reports! If the farmer is poor and cannot afford Sky, ITV Hub costs just £3.99 a month on the Internet and he could watch ITV1 Border Lookaround on that, then watch BBC1 North West Tonight on the television to get the Lancashire news.
All things considered, there is actually a disconnect between what the North West’s Regional Television Programmers think their viewers want and what possibly half of their viewers actually want from their North West Regional News service. This has parallels with the disconnect that has developed between the Labour Party (which had come to be associated with “Woke” concerns, ethnic minorities, and the Public Sector) and many provincial Constituencies across North West England which the Labour Party has long taken for granted and assumed that would always swing in behind Labour because of the Party’s “Progressive Policies”. The Labour leadership got an almighty shock on the night of 12th December 2019 (the date of the last General Election), for whilst the inner cities of Manchester and Liverpool agreed with Labour other unlikely North West Constituencies such as Bury North, Blackpool South and Workington (Cumbria) swung strongly towards the Conservatives, unceremoniously ejecting the incumbent Labour MP from office in the process!
If a new North West Regional News service comes onto the scene, one which has news about bread- and- butter issues like potholes, low incomes, problems affecting hill- farms, rural transport and which covers Cumbria right up to the Scottish Border (and which also covers Cumbria and Lancashire very extensively), but with less Sport and less Manchester/ Liverpool generally I am certain that the News- programmers and Editors at ITV1 Granada Reports and BBC1 North West Tonight would get one huge shock. Probably half the viewers, those north of the M62 Corridor certainly, would vote with their televisions and switch channels and ITV1 Granada, which depends on viewers for revenue, would be forced to take drastic action! It would be the equivalent to the political situation on the night of 12th December 2019 when over forty staunchly Labour Parliamentary Seats across Northern England and North Wales “Red Wall” flipped to the Conservatives!
In the absence of a new North West Regional News- service per-se coming onto the scene viewers who live in Lancashire and South Cumbria who are presented with the same old Inner City “Wokery” night after night (with little else), followed by a good dose of Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool Football Club don’t have a ready option to change channels. The two main North West Regional Television providers cover much the same topics and the same ground (though BBC North West Tonight does cover Lancashire better), they actually turn off many of the viewers that they are meant to cater for.
However, persuading viewers in Rossendale or around Wigan that they would actually benefit from a better spread of “Topically- relevant News” with a more geographically North West spread (North as well as South) if they watched ITV1 Border’s Lookaround followed by BBC North West Tonight might be a bit of a stretch: One would need to overcome the preconceptions that ITV1 Border is “Mainly about Scotland”, which is ingrained with viewers this far south and to show that one half (the Northern half) of the geographical North West of England is covered on ITV1 Border far better than on either of the two North West Regional Television services to have any hope of shifting the dial. I hope that this Website will go some way towards doing that.
In the mean-time some three million potential viewers in North West England who live north of the M62 Corridor are neither represented adequately nor have their topics of interest (or concern) addressed adequately. This applies to the farmer living above Rochdale, as to the truck- driver living in Kendal or the North Lancastrian working at the Chicken Factory near Garstang. Large numbers of such folk would not think anything of heading to the middle of Liverpool or Manchester (where the risk of getting mugged is a deterrent), but they would happily head to Windermere browse the shops there and enjoy a day out in the Lake District. The towns of Cumbria and Lancashire also have a charm and character that Lancastrians fall in love with, the friendly people they find there make these locations (and the people who live there) tug at the heart-strings. There are also issues that are common to folk living and working in rural Cumbria as those living and working in rural Lancashire (or indeed rural Greater Manchester) that are a world away from the concerns of Muslims in Oldham or woke students in Manchester (and vice versa).
There is actually a need for someone on high to come and pay the BBC and ITV a visit to explain that North West Regional Television is not fit for purpose for perhaps up to half the potential viewers of it. You can help bring this about by writing a letter first to the North West Regional Television Programmers to explain why you find the Regional News does not speak to you about the issues that matter to you, nor covers the northern half of North West England which extends right up to the Scottish border. If opt-out programming for Lancashire and South Cumbria is required to achieve drastic improvements, then that is what must be done. The relevant details are here:
BBC North West Tonight:
Michelle Mayman, Editor at BBC North West Television and Online, BBC North West, Quay House, Media City UK, Salford Quays, SALFORD. M50 2QH.
ITV Granada Reports:
Lucy West, Head of News, ITV Granada Reports, Orange Tower, Media City UK, SALFORD. M50 2HF.
If, when you write to the Programmers for BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports, you do not get a satisfactory response to the effect that they take your concerns seriously you then write to your local Constituency MP, explain why you are not happy with North West Regional News coverage- and detail the responses that the Heads of Programming reply to you with. Your MPs address will always be:
House of Commons, LONDON. SW1A 0AA.
If enough folk in Lancashire and South Cumbria put pen to paper and write, not email, first to the North West Regional Television programmers then, if the reply is not acceptable, to their Member of Parliament the North West Regional Television producers might actually take note. They might realise that their viewers north of the M62 Corridor are not actually very happy with the Regional news- output and strive to do something about it (even if that meant spending a bit more to provide opt-outs for Lancashire and Cumbria).